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A Wish From All Sides to Move On Ends With Liberty for Assange

As negotiations to end the long legal brawl between Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, and the United States reached a critical point this spring, prosecutors presented his lawyers with a choice so madcap that a person involved thought it sounded like a line from a Monty Python movie.

“Guam or Saipan?”

It was no joke. His path to freedom, he was told, would pass through one of the two American-held islands in the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Assange, who feared being imprisoned for the rest of his life in the United States, had long insisted on one condition for any plea deal: that he never set foot in the country. The U.S. government, in turn, had demanded that Mr. Assange plead guilty to a felony for violating the Espionage Act, which required him to appear before a federal judge.

In April, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s national security division broke the impasse with a sly workaround: How about an American courtroom that wasn’t actually inside mainland America?

Mr. Assange, worn down by five years of confinement in a London prison — where he spent 23 hours a day in his cell — quickly recognized that the deal was the best he had ever been offered. The two sides settled on Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific, 6,000 miles from the U.S. West Coast and about 2,200 miles from his native Australia.

Read more on nytimes.com