Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has departed from the UK following an agreement on a US plea deal that will see him plead guilty to criminal charges and secure his release. Assange had been charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information. Over the past five years, he was detained in a British prison, actively resisting extradition to the US.

According to the plea deal, Assange will not serve time in US custody, as he will be credited for the time he spent incarcerated in the UK. The agreement is expected to be finalized in a US district court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory, on Wednesday. Following this, Assange is anticipated to return to Australia, as confirmed by the US Department of Justice.

Australians React to Assange’s Release

In Sydney, residents have expressed mixed reactions to the news of Assange’s departure from the UK. One local described Assange’s experience as “going through hell” and expressed happiness about his return to Australia. Another resident acknowledged the seriousness of Assange’s actions but felt he had “served his time.”

Unusual Venue for Plea Deal

Assange’s guilty plea is scheduled to be finalized in the Northern Mariana Islands, a unique choice for such proceedings. A letter from the Department of Justice suggests that Assange’s distrust of the US government, including fears of alleged plots against him, influenced the decision to hold the plea deal outside the continental US. The islands’ proximity to Australia, roughly 2,000 miles away, also offers logistical convenience, enabling Assange’s swift return to his homeland.

US Lawmakers Respond

US lawmakers have expressed their views on Assange’s release. Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern and Republican Thomas Massie, who have led bipartisan efforts advocating for Assange’s freedom, have both commented. McGovern stated on X (formerly Twitter) that he did not believe Assange violated espionage laws and was glad the ordeal was nearing an end, allowing Assange to focus on his health and family. Massie welcomed Assange’s “liberation” but criticized the prolonged legal pursuit under multiple administrations.

Is Assange’s Freedom Certain?

While Assange’s supporters worldwide celebrate the potential end of his legal battle, those close to him remain cautious. WikiLeaks highlighted that the agreement has “not yet been formally finalized,” and Assange’s wife, Stella, noted the challenge of planning due to the rapid developments. Despite these uncertainties, court filings suggest Assange should soon be free, barring any last-minute legal issues.