Julian Assange, the enigmatic WikiLeaks founder, made a triumphant return to his homeland of Australia, arriving aboard a charter jet. His clenched fist of victory greeted a throng of cheering supporters on Wednesday, marking the end of a prolonged legal drama after he admitted to obtaining and publishing classified U.S. military documents as part of a plea deal with Justice Department prosecutors.

In a dramatic twist, Assange phoned Prime Minister Anthony Albanese from the tarmac of Canberra’s airport, expressing his gratitude for the Australian government’s intervention, which he credited with saving his life, according to his lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Upon landing, Assange embraced his wife, Stella, and his father, John Shipton, who were eagerly awaiting his arrival on the tarmac. However, he opted to dodge the media at a news conference held less than two hours after touching down.

“Julian wanted me to sincerely thank everyone. He wanted to be here. But you have to understand what he’s been through. He needs time. He needs to recuperate and this is a process,” Stella Assange explained to reporters.

Assange faced accusations of receiving and publishing hundreds of thousands of war logs and diplomatic cables, revealing U.S. military misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. His actions garnered widespread support from press freedom advocates, who praised his efforts to expose military activities that might have remained hidden and warned of the potential chilling effects on journalism. Among WikiLeaks’ most notable releases was a video showing a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad, which resulted in the deaths of 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.