11 July 2024

Bangkok – A plane carrying WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will stop in Bangkok to refuel, a senior Thai official told AFP on Tuesday, before flying to the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific.

“The flight will land around 11:50 am (0450 GMT) from London. It is expected to refuel and resupply with water before departing at 9:00 pm for Saipan island,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Assange is being taken to the US territory to face a judge as part of a plea deal expected to see him freed to return to his native Australia.

The 52-year-old has agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information, according to a document filed in court in the Northern Mariana Islands.

He is expected to appear in court Wednesday morning local time and be sentenced to 62 months in prison, with credit for the more than five years he has served on remand in Britain.

Assange was accused of publishing some 700,000 confidential documents related to US military and diplomatic activities, starting in 2010. 

He has been held in a high-security prison in London since 2019, after spending seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in the British capital to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

WikiLeaks announced that he had been granted bail, taken from Belmarsh jail to Stansted airport, northeast of London, and put on a plane.

The plea deal ends a lengthy tussle over US attempts to extradite Assange from Britain to face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act. 

The deal was not entirely unexpected. US President Joe Biden had been under growing pressure to drop the long-running case against Assange.

Agence France-Presse//Photo : This screen shot courtesy of WikiLeaks X page shows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange walking to board a plane from London Stansted Airport on June 24.//AFP