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WikiLeaks shares fresh photo of Julian Assange on private jet as he makes his way to Saipan to face court

Caleb Runciman and Elisia Seeber
The Nightly
7NEWS chief reporter Chris Reason spoke to Julian Assange's brother Gabriel Shipton who's in France. The family are 'overjoyed' the WikiLeaks founder is heading home.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange touched down in Bangkok on Tuesday as he journeys to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands for his final legal hurdle after years of imprisonment.

A post by WikiLeaks on X announcing his arrival in the Thai capital showed Assange speaking with Australian High Commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith — who is travelling with Assange out of the UK and towards the US Pacific territory.

Assange could be back on Australian soil within days after striking a plea deal with the US Government to end his 14-year legal saga.

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His wife Stella Assange is urging supporters to help fund a “USD$520,000” bill associated with the private jet flights — which are expected to fly him back home.

“Julian will owe USD 520,000 which he is obligated to pay back to the Australian government for charter Flight VJ199,” she said on X.

“He was not permitted to fly commercial airlines or routes to Saipan and onward to Australia.”

Julian Assange on a private plane approaching Bangkok airport for layover.
Julian Assange on a private plane approaching Bangkok airport for layover. Credit: WikiLeaks/X formerly Twitter

Mr Assange will on Wednesday morning appear in court in a tiny US territory to plead guilty to one charge of conspiring to obtain and disclose national defence secrets.

The charges relate to WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of military records and diplomatic cables exposing secrets of the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s.

After his layover in Thailand, he will make his way to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a small US territory in the western Pacific Ocean, to clear the final legal hurdle before his return to Australia.

The plea hearing is scheduled for 5am Eastern Standard Time.

Earlier today, WikiLeaks shared Assange was “free”, posting on social media he had left Belmarsh maximum security prison on June 24, after having spent 1901 days there.

“This is the result of a global campaign that spanned grass-roots organisers, press freedom campaigners, legislators and leaders from across the political spectrum, all the way to the United Nations,” the post read.

“This created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice, leading to a deal that has not yet been formally finalised.”

Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton told the ABC the WikiLeaks founder was “excited but anxious” about his release.

“Julian has been preparing to get on this flight and ... he’s been very excited, a little bit anxious, mostly excited about being free after all these years,” Mr Shipton told the ABC’s 7.30 program.

“Hopefully he’s home soon. He’s most of the way back ... so I can’t really see any hiccups coming.”

WikiLeaks said Assange had paid severely for his principles and his belief in the people’s right to know about government corruption.

“After more than five years in a 2x3 metre cell, isolated 23 hours a day, he will soon reunite with his wife Stella Assange, and their children, who have only known their father from behind bars,” the post read.

“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom.

“Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”

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