Home Australia Julian Assange is free but his prosecution sends a chilling message

Julian Assange is free but his prosecution sends a chilling message

Julian Assange is finally free, years after he was hounded, incarcerated and prosecuted. It was always going to be a tall mountain to surmount. The WikiLeaks Founder was charged under 18 criminal charges by the U.S. government when Donald Trump was President. The Wikileaks Founder entered into a plea agreement with U.S. and pleaded guilty to one criminal count of conspiring to obtain, publish classified U.S. national security documents. The court in the Northern Mariana islands said the time he spent in a prison in Britain would be considered as time served, as was agreed on. Assange told the court he believed the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects free speech, protected the work he did. He managed a smile as he walked free.

Julian Assange’s Father John Shipton told Reuters, “…That is the cherry on top of a very, very handsome birthday cake, that Julian can come home to Australia and see his family regularly and do the ordinary things of life, is a treasure, and life, measured amongst the beauty of the ordinary is the essence of life.”

His wife, Stella, who he married when he was in Belmarsh prison posted on X, “Julian walks out of Saipan federal court a free man. I can’t stop crying.” It’s been a long-drawn out legal battle for Julian Assange and Wikileaks, that was set up in 2006 but rose to prominence in 2010 after it published a classified video showing a U.S. helicopter attack and kill a dozen people in Iraq. Wikileaks went on to release hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and many diplomatic cables.

His father recalled, “The American Secret Service in 2011 published their review saying that we must hound him and his family to the ends of the earth and bankrupt them. Oh, it’s been expensive. You know, I’ve got no complaints. The results are there for everybody to see. So, whatever we paid out emotionally, physically, time, and the least money has been well rewarded today.”

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Over the years, the Australian government has pushed for Julian Assange’s freedom and welcomed his return home.

Andrew Wilkie, Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Julian Assange Group said, “It’s regrettable it has taken this long, it’s regrettable that Julian was left with no option but to plead guilty to one charge. I know he didn’t want to do that but he was left with no other option.”
Former journalist and independent MP Zoe Daniel added, “As a former journalist I simply want to say journalism is not a crime, telling the truth should never be a crime and thank you to the members of the Australian public and to those people around the world who recognised that the ability to speak truth to power is the very underpinning of our democracy.”

As Assange gets ready to spend time with his family, his lawyer said that never before in a 100 years has the U.S. used the Espionage Act against a journalist and that itself sets a dangerous precedent. Barry Pollack spoke to the media outside the court in Saipan. “What sends a chilling precedent, is the prosecution, the fact that the United States elected to charge Mr Assange with violating the Espionage Act. The court today determined that no harm was caused by Mr Assange’s publications, we know that they were newsworthy, we know that they were quoted by every major media outlet on the planet, and we know that they revealed important information – that is called journalism. The United States prosecuted that, they exposed Mr Assange to 175 years in prison. That has a chilling effect.”

Stella Assange has put out an appeal for help to raise money to pay for the chartered flights he was forced to take as he was not allowed to fly on a commercial airline for his court appearance.