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FOCUS: UK Court Sentences Julian Assange to a Year in Jail for Jumping Bail
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50693"><span class="small">Gregory Katz, Associated Press</span></a>   
Wednesday, 01 May 2019 10:42

Katz writes: "A British judge sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail seven years ago and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London."

Julian Assange. (photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Julian Assange. (photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

UK Court Sentences Julian Assange to a Year in Jail for Jumping Bail

By Gregory Katz, Associated Press

01 May 19


British judge sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail seven years ago and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Judge Deborah Taylor appeared unimpressed by Assange's written apology and his lawyer's argument that he sought refuge in the embassy because of overwhelming fear of being taken from Sweden, where he faced sexual misconduct allegations, to the U.S. to face separate charges related to his WikiLeaks activity.

"It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law," Taylor said. "Orders of the court are to be obeyed."

The judge said it was hard to imagine a more serious version of the offense as she gave the 47-year-old hacker a sentence close to the maximum of a year in custody. She pointed out that he had not surrendered "willingly" and was only facing the court because the government of Ecuador withdrew its protection last month.

The Australian secret-spiller had lived in the South American country's London embassy since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women.

He was arrested by British police April 11 after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation's foreign affairs to poor hygiene.

Assange faces a separate court hearing Thursday on a U.S. extradition request. American authorities have charged Assange with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system.

Taylor said 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 stood impassively with his hands clasped while the sentence was read. His supporters in the public gallery at Southwark Crown Court cheered for him as he left and chanted "Shame on you" at the judge as Assange was led away. He raised his fist in a show of defiance.

With his white hair freshly coiffed and wearing a black sports jacket and grey sweater, Assange looked much more youthful and healthier than when he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy by British police.

At the time, sporting an unkempt beard and long hair, he seemed wild-eyed and angry. This time he was composed and for the most part polite, although he did interrupt the judge to challenge her on her characterization of the sexual misconduct allegations he faced in Sweden.

His lawyer read out a brief letter from Assange to the judge in which he apologized "unreservedly" to anyone who felt his actions had been disrespectful.

"I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy," he said in the letter. "I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done."

Sweden suspended its investigation into possible sexual misconduct against Assange two years ago because he was beyond their reach while he was living in the embassy. Prosecutors have said that investigation could be revived if his situation changed.

Assange's 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." over his WikiLeaks activities.

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.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said after the sentencing that the extradition battle with the U.S. is now the "big fight" facing Assange.

"It will be a question of life and death for Mr. Assange," he said.

There was a small gathering of vocal Assange supporters outside the courthouse demanding he be freed. One person was dressed as a whistle to emphasize Assange's role as a whistleblower.

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+12 # PABLO DIABLO 2019-05-01 14:31
FREE Julian and FREE Chelsea.
+12 # dickbd 2019-05-01 14:39
This is not unexpected, but it is certainly disgraceful. I'm glad Assange had a courtroom full of supporters that cheered him and booed the judge.

The real problem is having the US government get hold of him. And our government has proved that it is not above torture--and who knows how many black sites there are! That's one of the secrets that our government doesn't want us to know. Even Saint Obama had a terrible record of going after whistle blowers. We need more, not less. In the meantime, Manning is courageously waiting in jail for refusing to testify against Assange.

That last fact is a tipoff that our government knew that Ecuador was going to acquiese. The former president of that country rightly called this action a "betrayal."
0 # Salburger 2019-05-02 02:17
Not unreasonable from the court's point of view as he did jump bail, but he should get credit for time served in the Ecuadorian embassy.
+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-05-02 08:49
Why all of the pejorative language in this AP report:

"the 47-year-old hacker" -- Assange is not a hacker. He is a publisher and a journalist.

"he was composed and for the most part polite," --- Assange has always been composed and polite. The stories to the contrary have been proven to be false smear campagins organized by Lenin Moreno, the Ecuadoran president who violated Assange's right to sanctuary.

"The Australian secret-spiller " --- we all rely on the press to spill the secrets of the powerful and of governments. Whistleblowers who spill government secrets about criminal actiions, abuse, corruption, and the like are protected in their "secret spilling" by law. Secret spilling ought to be an honorary profession.

"sporting an unkempt beard and long hair, he seemed wild-eyed and angry." -- Assange is being kept in solitary confinement with no access to his attorneys or medical care. Why such intense confinement for someone who is only charged with a minor offence -- skipping bail.
+2 # jwb110 2019-05-02 09:12
If the UK $21million dollars on this guy that is their fault for mismanaging their funds.
I think that the Establishment is losing sight of Assange being something of a loose cannon. He may drop another hammer and then what will they do.