Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has finally been released from a British prison and is on his way to a remote Pacific island to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department. This agreement, revealed in court documents, will end a prolonged legal battle over the publication of classified documents and will allow Assange to return home to Australia.

Assange, charged with conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information, was seen boarding a plane at Stanstead Airport near London. According to a letter from Justice Department official Matthew McKenzie, Assange will appear in court in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, to plead guilty.

After a brief stop in Bangkok for refueling, Assange’s plane will head to the Northern Mariana Islands, where he will face what could be his final court hearing. Assange has spent the last five years in a British prison and seven years before that in self-exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed relief at the resolution of the case, emphasizing that there was nothing to be gained from Assange’s continued incarceration. Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, and his wife, Stella Assange, echoed these sentiments, expressing gratitude and elation at the prospect of his freedom.

The charges against Assange date back to the early years of President Barack Obama’s administration. Assange and Chelsea Manning, a military intelligence analyst, were accused of conspiring to leak tens of thousands of classified documents. These documents included reports on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. State Department cables, and assessments of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The court documents detailing Assange’s plea deal were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. Assange is expected to be sentenced to 62 months, with credit for time served, allowing him to return to Australia.

Adrienne Watson, a National Security Council spokesperson, clarified that the plea deal was an independent decision by the Department of Justice, with no involvement from the White House.

Assange’s journey has been long and tumultuous. He was held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison and previously lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, which he has denied. The Swedish investigation was eventually dropped, but Assange remained in legal limbo, facing extradition to the U.S.

WikiLeaks, under Assange’s leadership, published a vast array of classified U.S. documents, revealing military actions and diplomatic communications. These publications sparked global debate over the balance between national security and freedom of the press.

In 2016, WikiLeaks released emails from the Democratic National Committee, which played a significant role in the presidential election. This led to the indictment of Russian intelligence officers by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2018.