The United States may consider offering a plea deal to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, according to Caroline Kennedy, the US ambassador to Australia. This potential plea deal could result in downgraded charges for Assange and allow him to return to his home country. Currently, Assange faces espionage charges in the US, which carry a potential life sentence. These charges are related to the release of highly sensitive US Army intelligence information on his WikiLeaks platform in 2010, provided to him by former analyst Chelsea Manning.
Kennedy spoke to the Sydney Morning Herald, stating that there could be a diplomatic resolution to the Assange case. She also mentioned that it would ultimately be up to the US Justice Department to pursue a plea deal. While there has been no official comment from US authorities on this matter, it is theoretically possible for a plea deal to be sought. This could involve Assange pleading guilty to lesser charges in exchange for being allowed to return to Australia to serve any remaining prison time.
Assange, an Australian native, has been held in London’s Belmarsh Prison since 2019 as he fights against extradition to the US. For seven years prior to his arrest, Assange had been granted political asylum by Ecuador’s embassy in London. His brother, Gabriel Shipton, believes that Kennedy’s remarks indicate a desire for a way out by the US. Shipton stated, “The Americans want this off their plate.”
However, if a plea deal were to be reached, it would likely require Assange to travel to the US to admit guilt in court proceedings. According to international law expert Donald Rothwell, it is typically not possible to strike a plea deal outside the relevant jurisdiction, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This would present a significant challenge for Assange, as he has expressed resistance to leaving the UK.
The final decision on a plea deal would likely require the authorization of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken has previously criticized Assange’s actions, stating that they put national security at risk and endangered human sources. It remains to be seen whether Blinken would be willing to approve a plea deal for Assange.
In conclusion, the US may be considering offering a plea deal to Julian Assange, which could result in reduced charges and his return to Australia. However, there are logistical and diplomatic challenges that need to be addressed for a plea deal to be successful. The final decision rests with the US Justice Department and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.