Who is Julian Assange and what exactly did he do?

By Dannielle Maguire, ABC

Julian Assange has been convicted under the US Espionage Act, with his guilty plea enabling him to head home to Australia.

Here’s a recap of the situation to get you up to speed.

Who is Julian Assange?

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website renowned for exposing sensitive information.

He is an Australian citizen and was born in Townsville, Queensland, in 1971.

The 52-year-old has been a fixture in international headlines for more than a decade due to his plight to avoid retribution for his work, claiming asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London before being moved to a maximum-security prison.

Assange’s imprisonment became highly publicised and reignited debate around protection of national security and freedom of the press.

Read more:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures after landing in Canberra, Australia, on 26 June 2024.

What did Julian Assange do?

He published US military information about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq through his media organisation called WikiLeaks.

Assange was charged for conspiring with Chelsea Manning – who was a US Army intelligence analyst at the time – to publish military documents on the WikiLeaks website.

What did Manning and Assange expose on WikiLeaks?

The most well known would be a classified video showing a US helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, Iraq in 2007.

It’s known as “Collateral Murder”.

All up, Manning sent more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks.

It was the largest breach of classified information in America’s history.

What charge was Julian Assange convicted of?

Conspiracy to Obtain and Disclose National Defense Information.

That’s the exact wording (and spelling) used in the court document.

But it’s also just being referred to as “an espionage charge” because the offence is a charge under the US Espionage Act.

This charge was dealt with very quickly in Saipan, in the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands on Wednesday.

Assange was sentenced to 62 months – a little more than five years – in prison.

But he was allowed to return to Australia a free man.

That’s because he had spent five years in a UK jail waiting for his matter to be dealt with and his sentence took into account the time he’d already served.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange embraces his wife Stella after landing in Canberra, Australia, on 26 June 2024.

Wasn’t he facing other charges?


He was accused of sexual assault in Sweden, but those charges were later dropped.

And he was originally facing a total of 18 charges in the US – all up, they carried a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.

But thanks to a plea deal, he was only convicted of one charge.

What were the old charges Julian Assange faced?

US charges:

  • One count of Conspiracy to Receive National Defense Information
  • Seven counts of Obtaining National Defense Information
  • Nine counts of Disclosure of National Defense Information
  • One count of Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion

Swedish charges:

  • One count of unlawful coercion
  • Two counts of sexual molestation
  • One count of rape

He was arrested in the UK over the Swedish charges in 2010.

Assange denied the allegations, claiming they were part of a plot to discredit him and extradite him to the US.

Swedish authorities eventually dropped the sexual assault charges against Assange in November 2019.

They said the corroborating evidence had weakened considerably “due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the events in question”.

What was Julian Assange imprisoned for?

Technically, he was jailed for “failing to surrender to the court”, then he was repeatedly denied bail while awaiting possible extradition to the US to face his American charges.

Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions relating to the Swedish sex assault charges.

That sentence expired in September 2019.

But he remained in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, where he awaited possible extradition to the US.

He was repeatedly denied bail due to fears he would abscond upon release.

How long did Julian Assange spend in prison?

Five years.

He was taken to London’s Belmarsh Prison in 2019.

Before then, he had been claiming asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

He was holed up there until the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum in April 2019, when he was arrested and carried out of the building.

How long did Julian Assange spend at the embassy?

Seven years.

He first claimed asylum there in 2012, back when he was facing the Swedish sex assault charges.

Where is Julian Assange now?


He landed in Canberra on Wednesday night.

This story was first published by ABC

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button