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Why Julian Assange Is Flying To Saipan, A Remote Pacific Island, Is Expounded

Photo-AFP

Julian Assange is currently on his way to Saipan, a Pacific island where he is set to appear in court and plead guilty to a single criminal charge as part of a plea deal. This agreement marks a significant development in Assange's legal saga, spanning over 14 years. Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, is a U.S. commonwealth located about 70 kilometers north of Guam. Despite its affiliation with the United States, Saipan, like other territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico, does not have the full status of a state, and its residents, while U.S. citizens, cannot vote in presidential elections.

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Assange's choice of Saipan for his court appearance is strategic, driven by its relative proximity to his home in Australia compared to other U.S. territories like Hawaii, which is much farther away. The legal proceedings in Saipan will address charges under U.S. law, providing a geographically convenient venue that meets the requirements of U.S. jurisdiction without being on the continental mainland.

Saipan's history reflects its complex geopolitical status, having been under Spanish, German, and Japanese rule before becoming a U.S. territory following World War II. Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands voted to join the United States in 1975. Although they have elected a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, this delegate does not hold voting rights in Congress.

If the court approves Assange's plea deal, which involves pleading guilty to conspiracy related to classified U.S. national defense documents, he will reportedly be sentenced to 62 months, accounting for time already served. Following the court hearing, Assange is expected to return to Australia. The development underscores the intricate legal and geopolitical considerations surrounding his case and the broader implications for international law and press freedom.

June 25, 2024 12:39 p.m. 536

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