Julian Assange lands in Bangkok en route to US territory to finalise a legal fight, then home to Australia. He will soon reunite with his wife and children after years of confinement. His costly journey is funded by the Australian government.

Thailand briefly hosted Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, on his flight to freedom on Tuesday. After setting off on Monday afternoon from the United Kingdom’s Stansted Airport, Mr Assange’s chartered jet landed on Tuesday in Bangkok. He was on his way to the US territory of the North Mariana Islands in the Pacific, where his legal fight with the US Justice Department will be finalised. Afterwards, he will return home to Australia, where his wife Stella and two young children await.

Julian Assange looks out of the window of his chartered jet as it comes to land in Bangkok on Tuesday. His next stop was the US-North Mariana Islands and, afterwards, home to Australia to be reunited with his family. The controversial Wikileaks founder was finally ending a thirteen-year-old protracted legal battle after US moves against him began in 2011. (Source: Wikileaks and BBC News)

Freed Wikileaks boss Julian Assange flew into Bangkok on Tuesday. It was his first stop after leaving Britain’s Stansted Airport on Monday afternoon.

The plane, VJT199, chartered by the Australian government, touched down at Don Mueang Airport. Reports suggest it was the same jet used previously by US pop star Taylor Swift. That was in February when she flew from Tokyo to Los Angeles to see her boyfriend Travis Kelce play in the Super Bowl.

Cost of Assange’s round-the-world jet flight runs to $500,000 and is being funded initially by Australia’s government. He is finally due home on Wednesday

Certainly, the cost of the flight was not lost on the mind of Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, on Tuesday. She was speaking to the BBC about the unfolding story.

‘We haven’t had much time to talk about the future – the first thing is that he will have to pay the Australian government $500,000 (£393,715) back for the chartered flights,’ she told the BBC Newshour programme.

Australian officials have been party to this deal which is also being directed by the Biden White House. Assange is expected to arrive home in Australia on Wednesday. However, his supporters are still tentatively anxious.

Julian Assange, it appears, is coming to the end of a 13-year-old legal nightmare. Firstly, there were charges of rape in Sweden, then a year later he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Following this, in 2019, he was arrested by police after the South American country withdrew its protection.

Wikileaks blew the whistle on America’s dirty secrets linked to its military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq in the opening years of the 21st century

Understandably, Julian Assange and Wikileaks supporters linked this to the groundbreaking exposé in 2010. This was the release of a massive tranche of secret files on Wikileaks, a project launched by Assange in 2006.

Formerly, the United States had managed to control the narrative of these military campaigns. Certainly, the press was more muted than during the Southeast Asian wars forty years previously.

Undoubtedly, this was particularly driven by the patriotic sentiment, which still exists, after the September 2001 World Trade Centre attack.

Working with US military officer and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, the files included a shocking video.

In brief, it showed 11 civilians being killed in a US Apache helicopter attack. The slaughter in Baghdad included two Reuters journalists.

Julian Assange became a target for the US conservatives in the United States for his Wikileaks site seen in the context of a war on terror and espionage

In addition, the site revealed a slew of American secrets relating to its military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, the period from 2001 to 2010.

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Afterwards, Assange became a target for US security services and the Justice Department. In particular, former Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions, a hawk, was previously a US senator. He was top legal officer until November 2018. The conservative Sessions set in motion an investigation. 

US Conservatives saw Assange as an enemy of the American war on terror. His actions put US service men and women in danger.

Indeed, US authorities launched a blitzkrieg campaign seeking the arrest and prosecution of Assange before US courts on espionage charges.

Certainly, at one point, the option of ‘terminating’ Assange was raised but firmly discounted by officials under the Trump administration.

Legal battle of wills between Wikileaks, Julian Assange’s family and US prosecutors later aided by British authorities. Assange was harshly treated

Subsequently, Assange spent five years in a cell at Belmarsh Prison. Before this, he was forced to live in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years. He fled there after a UK court threatened to send him to Sweden on rape charges.

In turn, this led to British authorities adopting a tough line towards the controversial Australian. His treatment after the Ecuadorian authorities lifted their protection was significantly harsh.

Wikileaks supporters claim these charges were suspect, although Swedish prosecutors eventually dropped them because of time constraints.

In the meantime, his legal team and wife valiantly fought for his release. After losing several cases and an appeal, he recently won the right to lodge a further appeal against his extradition to the United States.

Pressure by the Australian government on Biden’s White House proved a key factor in resolving the long-running and worrying case. Press rights infringed

At the same time, the Australian government is believed to have put pressure on the Biden White House to end the extraordinary pursuit of Mr Assange. 

The case has seen media bodies and personalities all over the world criticise the United States for trampling on the rights of journalists.

In contrast, however, US agencies and the establishment see what Mr Assange did as a threat to US security, particularly the failure of Wikileaks to protect the identity of American personnel in the field.

On Wednesday, Julian Assange will face a US Federal court in the Northern Mariana Islands. It is a US commonwealth far from Hawaii and the US mainland.

Significantly, this was a key demand of Assange’s attorney in negotiations that his wife described as ‘touch and go’ over the last few days.

The Australian will plead guilty to one count under the US Espionage Act and will be sentenced to five years imprisonment. This is the time already served. Afterwards, he will be flown home to Australia.

Family including wife and children await Assange in Australia. Wife Stella’s priority is caring for his health after a 2021 stroke in Belmarsh Prison

There, he will finally be able to spend time with his wife and two children who were born during his ordeal.

On Tuesday, Stella Assange told the BBC that they have told the children to expect a ‘big surprise’. She was also hesitant to say too much until she saw her husband finally arrive home.

‘I’m not used to talking about Julian free in the present,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to jeopardise anything. The important thing here is that the deal involved time served – that if he signed it, he would be able to walk free. He will be a free man once it has been signed off by a judge.’

She said she hoped her family would be able to have privacy to deal with the next phase in their lives. The priority, she insisted, will be to help her husband recover his health. Mr Assange suffered a minor stroke while imprisoned in high-security Belmarsh Prison in 2021.

The end of his ordeal will be welcomed by most, certainly by anyone who supports a free press and journalistic freedom.

However, he will remain a controversial figure, not least because of his other notorious document dump in 2016, which was seen as influencing the US Presidential election that elected Trump. These were Hilary Clinton’s famed emails that she had previously denied.

Mr Assange coordinated that exposé from his lair, at the time, in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

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