A British judge today (May 1, 2019) sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail seven years ago and holing up in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Judge Deborah Taylor while passing a sentence close to the maximum of a year in custody, said that it was hard to imagine a more serious version of the offence.
She said that Assange’s seven years in the embassy had cost British taxpayers 16 million pounds ($21 million), and said he sought asylum as a “deliberate attempt to delay justice.”
Assange, 47, broke his bail conditions in 2012 when he fled to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations.
His lawyer, Mark Summers told a courtroom packed with journalists and WikiLeaks supporters that his client sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy because “he was living with overwhelming fear of being rendered to the U.S.”
He said Assange had a “well-founded” fear that he would be mistreated and possibly sent to the U.S. detention camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay.
Summers read a letter from Assange apologizing for his behavior in 2012 and saying “I did what I thought was best.”
“I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances,” the letter said.
Assange was arrested on April 11, 2019, after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation’s foreign affairs to poor hygiene.
The sentencing comes a day before an extradition hearing in London related to separate charges in the United States of conspiring to hack a government password.
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