11 July 2024

Australia’s prime minister hailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s US plea deal hearing Wednesday as a “welcome development”.

Assange, 52, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate US national defence information at a court in the US Pacific territory of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The plea is part of an agreement that is expected to free Assange to return to his native Australia within hours.

“This is a welcome development, but we recognise as well that these proceedings are sensitive and should be respected,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Canberra.

“Given those proceedings that are happening literally in real time, it isn’t appropriate to provide further commentary,” Albanese said.

Australia had used “all appropriate channels” to support a “positive outcome” in the case, he said, noting that Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Kevin Rudd, was accompanying Assange.

“Regardless of your views about Mr Assange, his case has dragged on for too long. There is nothing to be gained from his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia,” the Australian leader said.