Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange’s Legal Battle Ends

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Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, was released from London’s Belmarsh Prison on Monday after more than five years in prison, following a plea agreement with US authorities.

This agreement, which allows him to escape extradition to the United States, is a key milestone in his 14-year legal journey. According to Reuters on June 24, Assange agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to obtain and publish US national defense secrets, citing documents by US prosecutors in the Northern Mariana Islands District Court.

Wikileaks Co-Founder’s Plea Agreement

The plea agreement calls for a term of five years and three months, effectively crediting the time Assange has already served in prison since his arrest in April 2019. His sentence hearing is slated for June 25 at 11 p.m. UTC in Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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WikiLeaks confirmed Assange’s release and return to Australia in a June 24 post on X. He boarded an aircraft from the United Kingdom on Monday, marking the end of his lengthy imprisonment.

Wikileaks and Its Rise to Fame

Wikileaks originally received global notoriety in 2010 when it published over 700,000 classified US papers and diplomatic cables related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were leaked by former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. This contentious release sparked widespread opposition, including financial blockades.

PayPal suspended WikiLeaks’ account in December 2010, significantly reducing the organization’s fundraising potential. In response, WikiLeaks resorted to Bitcoin, which had been developed less than two years before. This move represented one of the first crossings of cryptocurrencies and big worldwide events, dramatically increasing Bitcoin’s awareness.

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Crypto’s Role

Satoshi Nakamoto, the enigmatic creator of Bitcoin, famously urged WikiLeaks on the Bitcoin Talk forum not to utilize Bitcoin in order to avoid unwanted state attention. Nakamoto’s request emphasized the vulnerable state of the embryonic cryptocurrency at the moment. “WikiLeaks has kicked the hornet’s nest, and the swarm is headed towards us,” Nakamoto said in his second-to-last post before disappearing from public view.

The allegations against Assange, which were filed during Donald Trump’s administration in April 2019, were widely condemned by supporters and press freedom campaigners, who maintained that releasing information should not be criminalized. For seven years, Assange sought sanctuary at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault claims, which were finally dismissed. His arrest in April 2019 resulted in his extended imprisonment in Belmarsh Prison, where he resisted extradition to the United States.

Cryptocurrency was critical to WikiLeaks’ survival during this time. The use of Bitcoin and later other cryptocurrencies for donations not only provided necessary funds, but also demonstrated the potential of decentralized digital currencies to circumvent traditional financial barriers.

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