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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Freed by US Court, Australian PM Welcomes

A US federal court in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, on Wednesday ordered that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who pleaded guilty to a single felony count of violating the Espionage Act, should be released immediately. 

Australian PM welcomed news of WikiLeaks founder's release.

He will leave the court as a 'free man', Judge Ramona Manglona said.

The judge said that it is fair to accept the 62 months, which he has already spent in a cell in the UK, as his sentence. "You will be able to walk out of this courtroom a free man," Judge Manglona said.

Earlier in the day, Assange pleaded guilty in court as part of a deal with the US Justice Department to avoid further prison time and end the years-long legal saga.

The Wikileaks founder on Wednesday morning arrived in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, after being freed from the UK prison, where he spent more than five years.

Australia's ambassador to the US and former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and High Commissioner to the UK, Stephen Smith were also present in the courtroom.

Assange will now fly home to Australia's capital, Canberra. 

Meantime, speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Albanese welcomed the news and said he plans to speak more once the legal process is complete.

"While this is a welcome development, we recognise these proceedings are crucial and delicate," he said.

"We have engaged and advocated Australia's interest using all appropriate channels to support a positive outcome, and I have done that since very early on in my prime ministership."

He reiterated that the US case against Assange has dragged on so long that there was nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration.

Penny Wong, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said in the Senate that Albanese had raised Assange's case with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak since coming to office in 2022 and that the government had offered Assange and his family consular support while he was imprisoned in the UK.

Biden said in April that he was considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution of Assange over WikiLeaks' 2010 release of classified military records relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and diplomatic cables.

*Except for the heading, this story has not been edited by The enewstime.in and has been published from IANS feed.

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