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Wikileaks Founder Assange Released From UK Prison, Appears in US Colony Court Wednesday

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be a “free man”, his wife said Tuesday, once a judge signs off on a plea deal with US authorities to bring his years-long legal drama to a close.

Assange was released Monday from a high-security British prison where he had been held for five years while he fought extradition to the United States, which sought to prosecute him for revealing military secrets.

He flew out of London to travel to the Northern Mariana Islands, a US territory in the Pacific where he will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to obtain and disseminate national defence information, according to a court document.

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A charter plane carrying the 52-year-old landed in Bangkok around 12:30 pm (0530 GMT) on Tuesday for a scheduled refuelling stop.

From there it was scheduled to fly to Saipan, the capital of the US territory where Assange is due in court on Wednesday morning.

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He is expected to be sentenced to five years and two months in prison, with credit for the same amount of time he spent behind bars in Britain.

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Assange’s wife Stella said he would be a “free man” after the judge signed off on the deal, thanking supporters who have campaigned for his release for years.

“I’m just elated. Frankly, it’s just incredible,” she told BBC radio.

“We weren’t sure until the last 24 hours that it was happening.”

She urged supporters to monitor her husband’s flight on plane-tracking websites and to follow the “AssangeJet” hashtag, saying in a post on social media platform X “We need all eyes on his flight in case something goes wrong”.

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The court in the Northern Mariana Islands was chosen because of Assange’s unwillingness to go to the continental United States and because of the territory’s proximity to his native Australia, a court filing said.

Under the deal, Assange is due to return to Australia, where the government said his case had “dragged on for too long” and there was “nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration”.

WikiLeaks posted a video on X showing Assange looking out of the window as the private jet landed in Bangkok, and then stepping off the plane onto the tarmac.

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Assange was wanted by Washington for releasing hundreds of thousands of secret US documents from 2010 as head of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

Since then he has become a hero to free speech campaigners and a villain to those who thought he endangered US security and intelligence sources.

US authorities wanted to put Assange on trial for divulging military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He was indicted by a US federal grand jury in 2019 on 18 counts stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of a trove of national security documents.

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The United Nations hailed Assange’s release, saying the case had raised “a series of human rights concerns”.

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“We welcome the release of Julian Assange from detention in the UK,” UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told AFP in an email.

Assange’s mother Christine Assange said in a statement carried by Australian media that she was “grateful that my son’s ordeal is finally coming to an end”.

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But former US Vice President Mike Pence slammed the plea deal on X as a “miscarriage of justice” that “dishonours the service and sacrifice of the men and women of our Armed Forces”.

The announcement of the deal came two weeks before Assanga e was scheduled to appear in court in Britain to appeal against a ruling that approved his extradition to the United States.

Assange has been detained in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London since April 2019.

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He was arrested after spending seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault that were eventually dropped.

The material he released through WikiLeaks included video showing civilians being killed by fire from a US helicopter gunship in Iraq in 2007. The victims included a photographer and a driver from Reuters.

The United States accused Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. Supporters have warned this means he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

The British government approved his extradition in June 2022 but, in a recent twist, two British judges said in May that he could appeal against the transfer.

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

The Australian government made an official request to that effect in February and Biden said he would consider it, raising hopes among Assange supporters that his ordeal might end.

AFP

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Three Nigerians sentenced To 235 Years In US Prison

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A court in Mississippi, United States of America has sentenced three Nigerians to 235 years in prison.

The jury found all the three personguilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and theft of government property.

Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, was sentenced to 95 years in prison, while Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, got 115 years jail term.

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Also, Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, received 25 years in jail.

They were convicted for running online scams.

They were said to have duped people of tens of millions of dollars.

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Deadly Blaze Kills Even In France

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An apartment building blaze early Thursday killed seven people in the southern French city of Nice and police were investigating the fire as a possible arson, authorities said.

The dead include three children – 5, 7 and 10 years old – and a 17-year-old teenager who tried to escape by jumping from a window, they said.

The apartment was occupied by a family believed to have Comoran origins, the regional prefect Hugues Moutouh said, referring to the southern African island nature.

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Ten people were inside when the fire broke out.

Rescuers were alerted at around 2:30 am (0030 GMT) to the blaze on the seventh floor of the building in the low-income neighbourhood of Les Moulins, known for being a drug-dealing hub, in the west of the city.

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In spite of the substantial resources deployed, “unfortunately seven people died during this fire”, firefighters said.

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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on social media that the quick arrival of firefighters “probably prevented more deaths”.

Nice prosecutor Damien Martinelli said investigators were looking into a “criminal” cause for the fire.

“In light of the initial evidence, I have opened an investigation into acts of arson leading to death,” he told reporters at the scene.

The authorities said the blaze probably broke out on the building’s second floor and spread to higher floors.

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Rescuers said that three people were taken to hospital, one of them with life-threatening injuries.

They said firefighters were confronted by a “raging apartment fire” on the seventh floor of the building. They carried out three aerial ladder rescues and evacuated dozens.

In total, 25 fire engines and 72 firefighters tackled the fire.

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Twenty people were evacuated to a temporary shelter, with Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi saying a crisis unit to help anyone affected by the fire.

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Biden Speaks Of Quitting Presidential Race If…

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US President Joe Biden said he could drop his reelection bid if doctors found he had a medical condition, as a top Democrat on Wednesday urged the 81-year-old to step aside.

Biden’s comments were the first time he has even slightly opened the door to abandoning the White House race, and came as Representative Adam Schiff, a key ally from California, urged Biden to “pass the torch.”

“If I had some medical condition that emerged, if somebody, if the doctors came and said ‘you’ve got this problem, that problem,’” Biden told the Black media outlet BET in an interview taped Tuesday, when asked what could make him rethink.

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Biden however defended his decision to stay on for a rematch with Republican Donald Trump in November, and explained why he had not handed over to a younger generation after one term.

READ ALSO: Biden Falters In Fiery Debate With Trump

“I said I was going to be a transitional candidate, and I thought I’d be able to move on from this, pass it on to someone else,” he said. “But I didn’t anticipate things getting so, so, so divided.”

Biden has been fighting for political survival since a disastrous debate against Trump nearly three weeks ago, in which his tired and confused appearance sparked concerns about his age.

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Schiff became the first Democrat to call for him to step aside since the assassination attempt against Trump on Saturday, which had briefly silenced the growing chorus against Biden.

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A second Trump presidency will undermine the very foundation of our democracy, and I have serious concerns about whether the President can defeat Donald Trump in November,” Schiff said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

Schiff, who is expected to win a Senate seat this November, is a key White House ally in the legislature and shot to nationwide prominence as lead prosecutor during then-president Trump’s first impeachment trial.

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Biden was set to make a fresh attempt to prop up his candidacy in a speech to crucial Latino voters in the battleground state of Nevada later Wednesday.

– ‘Pretty damn good’ –

Around 20 House Democrats and one senator have now called on Biden to leave the White House race but Biden has refused, insisting he is best placed to beat Trump.

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Biden, Trump agree to election debates in June, September
Most polls show Biden trailing in a tight race, with Trump pulling ahead in key swing states but no dramatic movement since the debate debacle or shooting.

Biden said his mental acuity was “pretty damn good” in an NBC interview on Monday, one of a series of unscripted outings aimed at showing he has what it takes.

With pressure on Biden mounting, Democrats said on Wednesday they plan a virtual nomination for the president in the first week of August, ahead of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on August 19.

Some Democrats have slammed the scheme, accusing the party of trying to ram through Biden’s candidacy and avoid a full discussion of alternative choices.

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Party chiefs say they need to carry out the virtual roll-call by August 7, which is the deadline set by the Republican-led state of Ohio for the submission of nominations.

Biden otherwise risks not being on the ballot in Ohio, the home state of Trump’s new running mate J.D. Vance.

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While Ohio’s governor has signed a law giving Biden more time, the DNC said it feared further legal challenges.

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“None of this will be rushed,” the heads of the DNC’s rules committee said in a letter to lawmakers obtained by AFP. “No matter what may be reported, our goal is not to fast-track.”

But several lawmakers are planning to sign a letter against the virtual nomination plan and others have criticized it, according to US media.

Biden insists that Democratic voters support him, but a poll by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research said Wednesday that nearly two-thirds want him to step aside.

 

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