Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange 47-year-old has been sentenced to 50-weeks in jail for breaching his bail and hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Assange was found guilty of breaching the Bail Act at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court earlier this month after being arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy. He was accused of sexual offences in Sweden in 2010, and after exhausting his legal options against an extradition order, went to the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19, 2012. A warrant for his arrest was issued 10 days later.
Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador after the UK Supreme Court upheld a ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. He has denied the allegation.
He claimed he was seeking political asylum because Sweden’s international arrest warrant would see him eventually extradited to the United States.
In mitigation, Mark Summers QC had said his client was “gripped” by fears of rendition to the US over the years because of his work with whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.
Mr Summers read a letter from Assange apologising for his behaviour in 2012 and saying, “I did what I thought was best”.”I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances,” I regret the course that i has taken.’ Those difficulties, the letter continued, were ‘compounded’ and also ‘impacted upon very many others’. the letter said.
Sentencing him, Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of the offence.”By hiding in the embassy you deliberately put yourself out of reach, while remaining in the UK,” she said.
She said this had “undoubtedly” affected the progress of the Swedish proceedings.His continued residence at the embassy and bringing him to justice had cost taxpayers £16m, she added.
Assange now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest leaks of government secrets.
The UK Government will decide whether to extradite Assange to the US in response to allegations that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.