Why is Julian Assange headed to the little-known island of Saipan?

Key Points
  • Wikilieaks founder Julian Assange will face court in the US territory of Saipan.
  • Assange is due to plead guilty to violating US espionage law.
  • Saipan is a tiny island in the western Pacific Ocean.
It’s known for its sun, sand and snorkelling and soon, a major US espionage court case.
Saipan, a tiny island in the western Pacific Ocean, has found itself under the global spotlight amid reports that Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to appear at a court hearing there that could end his 14-year legal saga.
, in a deal that will allow him to return home to Australia.
The Australian has agreed to plead guilty to a single criminal count of conspiring to obtain and disclose classified US national defence documents, according to court filings in the US District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands.
WikiLeaks earlier announced Assange had left Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, had boarded a plane and left the United Kingdom on Monday.

Assange is expected to arrive on the remote island on Tuesday afternoon, according to local media in Saipan.

Saipan, the largest and most developed island of the Northern Mariana Islands, is known for its beaches and scuba diving. Credit: Supplied/Tourism USA

Why is Assange’s court hearing in Saipan?

According to the Associated Press, the hearing is to take place there because of Assange’s opposition to travelling to the continental US, and the court’s proximity to Australia.

Where is Saipan?

Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands and a commonwealth of the United States. The US captured the Northern Mariana Islands in 1944 after the Battle of Saipan.

It’s a small island – just 12 miles long and 5.5 miles wide – and is considered the international gateway and the commercial hub for the Islands.

A map of Saipan

Saipan is the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands.

It is located about 190km north of Guam and is better known for its white sand beaches, coral reefs and tourist attractions.

Saipan was highlighted by Guinness World Records for having some of the most consistent temperatures on Earth.

It was formerly administered as a Spanish, German and Japanese colony.

When is Julian Assange’s court hearing?

Assange is due to be sentenced to 62 months of time already served at a hearing on the island of Saipan at 9 AM local time (9AM AEST) on Wednesday.

He is expected to appear at the court – court documents state he will be “first brought to the District of the Northern Mariana Islands”.

The Saipan Tribune reports Assange will appear before Chief Judge Ramona V Manglona for a change of plea hearing on Wednesday.

Can I watch the court hearing?

So far, there appears to be no plans by the court to livestream the proceedings online.

The United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands says a live video feed of the hearing will be offered in the Jury Assembly Room on the first floor of the courthouse.

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