Julian Assange to plead guilty to espionage charges, expected to be freed

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to plead guilty this week to violating US espionage law, in a deal that could end his imprisonment in Britain and allow him to return home to Australia, US prosecutors said.

Assange, 52, has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. national defense documents, according to filings in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.

Assange is due to be sentenced to 62 months of time already served at a hearing on the island of Saipan at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday (1900 EDT/2300 GMT on Tuesday). He is expected to return home after that hearing.

A lawyer for Assange did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

WikiLeaks in 2010 released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military documents on Washington's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – the largest security breaches of their kind in U.S. military history – along with swaths of diplomatic cables.

Read moreWho is Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks?

Assange was indicted during former President Donald Trump's administration over WikiLeaks' mass release of secret U.S. documents, which were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. military intelligence analyst who was also prosecuted under the Espionage Act.

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