📖 Your Q2 Earnings Guide: Discover the Stocks ProPicks AI Highlights to Jump Post-EarningsRead more

Factbox-Why is Julian Assange flying to the remote Pacific island of Saipan?

Published 06/25/2024, 12:45 AM
Updated 06/25/2024, 01:50 PM
© Reuters. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange boards a plane at a location given as London, Britain, in this still image from video released JUNE 25, 2024.  "@wikileaks" via X/Handout via REUTERS

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Better known for its sandy beaches and Second World War wrecks, the tropical Pacific island of Saipan will soon host the final act of Julian Assange's 14-year legal odyssey.

Assange is en route to a courtroom on the island where he is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday to a single criminal charge in a plea deal that will see him walk free and return home to Australia.


Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), a U.S. commonwealth in the western Pacific which begins roughly 70 km (44 miles) north of Guam and stretches across 14 islands.

Like territories such as Guam or Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands are part of the U.S. without the full status of a state.

The roughly 51,000 residents are U.S. citizens but cannot vote in presidential elections. Crucially, some, like Saipan, also host U.S. district courts.

Assange will appear in court at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday (2300 GMT Tuesday)


U.S. prosecutors said Assange wanted to go to a court close to his home of Australia but not on the continental United States.

Saipan has the advantage of being relatively close to Assange's home of Australia, roughly 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south. Hawaii is more than twice as far away.

"He has to front up to charges that have been brought under U.S. law," said Emily Crawford, a professor at the University of Sydney's law school.

"It had to be U.S. territory but it had to be the U.S. territory closest to Australia that wasn't a U.S. state like Hawaii."


After time as a colony of Spain, Germany and then Japan, the United States took control of the island in World War Two.

After decades under U.S. control, residents in 1975 voted to join the United States as a territory. The territory has a permanent delegate in the U.S. House of Representative, although they cannot vote.


Dotted with golf courses and ringed by sandy beaches, Saipan is home to most of the Northern Mariana's residents. Roughly 20 km (12 miles) long, it only takes an hour to traverse the island.

The site of the bloody Battle of Saipan during World War 2, the island and its surroundings are dotted with memorials and wrecks popular with divers.

Tourism is the mainstay of the economy and it is popular with Korean and Chinese tourists. It is the only part of the United States that Chinese citizens can enter without a visa.

That unique status has opponents in Congress, who worry about the risk of espionage by Chinese nationals.


© Reuters. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange boards a plane at a location given as London, Britain, in this still image from video released JUNE 25, 2024.

U.S. prosecutors said Assange has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified U.S. national defence documents in exchange for a sentence of 62 months already served.

If the judge approves his plea, Assange is expected to return to Australia after the hearing, U.S. prosecutors said.

Latest comments

Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.