Julian Assange reunites with family after he arrives in Australia

By Jake Evans, ABC political reporter

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has landed in Australia, ending the former fugitive’s decade-long diplomatic saga.

Assange’s plane touched down just after 7.30pm local time in Canberra as his family, supporters and media watched on.

Crowds erupted in cheers as Assange waved at supporters and hugged his wife on the tarmac.

As he stepped off the plane, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, speaking from parliament, welcomed his return.

“Earlier tonight I was pleased to speak to Mr Assange to welcome him home and had the opportunity to ask him about his health and have my first discussion with him,” he said.

“His safe return to Australia as we know means so much to his family.”

Assange’s family and media then raced to East Hotel in Kingston, where his wife Stella Assange and legal team addressed media and celebrated his return.

Stella Assange thanked the government and opposition, public servants and the Australian people for their tireless advocacy.

“It took all of them, it took millions of people, it took people working behind the scenes, people protesting on the streets for day, and weeks, and months and years,” she said.

“And we achieved it.”

Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, said he spoke with the prime minister on the phone as soon as he landed, and expressed his thanks for his return.

“[Assange] told the prime minister he had saved his life, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration,” Robinson said.

But his legal team repeated their frustrations that Assange had to plead guilty in order to be freed, and said that amounted to the criminalisation of journalism.

Stella Assange added that Julian wished to pass on his thanks, but he needed time to recuperate.

“You have to understand what he’s been through,” she said.

“Julian should never have spent a single day in prison, but today we celebrate because Julian is free.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Assange pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy with a sentence of “time already served”, in a deal that concluded the United States’ pursuit of him for more than a decade.

The US had sought Assange’s extradition from the United Kingdom since 2012 over the publication of classified US military intelligence through WikiLeaks.

Albanese said regardless of what people think of Assange, it was clear his case had dragged on for too long.

He said in his phone call with Assange expressed “praise” for the Australian government’s efforts in returning him home, saying it took patient diplomacy.

Outside the East Hotel in Kingston, the mood was jubilant as a crowd of Assange’s supporters gathered to welcome his return.


According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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