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DoJ is 'considering giving Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a plea deal that would allow him...

• https://www.dailymail.co, By JEN SMITH

Julian Assange is said to be in talks with the Department of Justice to plead guilty to a lesser offense and avoid extradition to the US, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Unnamed sources cited by the Journal on Wednesday say the guilty plea would apply to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information. 

The five years he has spent at Belmarsh Prison in the UK would count as time served, the sources said, and Assange would likely be freed shortly after the deal was finalized.

Such a deal is yet to be approved, and would require the highest levels of approval in the DoJ.

The Wikileaks founder, 52, has been desperately trying to fight extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years in prison if found guilty on spying charges. 

The deal would end the battle between Assange and the US government, which started in 2010 after Assange published thousands of classified military documents online. 

However, Assange's lawyer Barry Pollack told the Journal he has seen no indication that the DoJ will take the deal. 

If the deal does happen, Assange would have the possibility of entering the plea remotely, sparing him a trip to the US, where Assange has claimed he fears for his life. 

Assange's protracted legal saga in the UK has included seven years of self-exile inside a foreign embassy and five years in prison.

A UK court is currently considering whether to allow one last appeal by Assange, who has been in the London prison since 2019. If the court rules against him, the US will have 28 days to collect Assange and take him to the US to face the charges against him.