Peters & Peters

How the deal to free Julian Assange was agreed

Yesterday, after having agreed a plea deal with US authorities, Julian Assange left a US court in Saipan, in the Mariana Islands, a free man.

This latest development brings to an end this long-running saga, including 13 years of self-imposed confinement and detention in a UK prison for the WikiLeaks founder.

Nick Vamos, who has commented on the case extensively, explained that a plea deal that allowed Mr Assange to avoid any more jail time had been on the cards since 2022, when the US authorities promised to transfer enforcement of any sentence to Australia.

The crucial development appears to have been the High Court’s decision in May to grant Mr Assange permission to appeal on the single issue of whether, as a non-US citizen, he could argue at trial that publishing secret US information was protected by the First Amendment.

Nick spoke to the BBC, the Financial Times, the New York Times and other media on this latest development.

He told the BBC that the ruling would have put pressure on MrAssange and the US authorities to complete the deal since it potentially allowed Mr Assange to argue that publishing secret US information was protected by the First Amendment, which could have led to “months if not further years of delays and pressure”.

The ruling would have increased Mr Assange’s chances of avoiding extradition to the US on the publishing charges, but would not have been a defence to the espionage charges that he also faced for helping Chelsea Chelsea Manning to hack the information in the first place, as the High Court had already found that this did not amount to journalistic activity protected by freedom of speech.


“Faced with this uncertainty and further delay, it looks as if the US have dropped the publishing charges in exchange for Mr Assange pleading guilty to hacking and ‘time served’, finally bringing this saga to end,” Nick said.

He added: “Both sides saw the risks and that brought them to the table,” he said.