WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks—for almost a year—in prison by a London court for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy for nearly 7 years.
Within hours of his arrest, Assange was convicted at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of skipping bail in June 2012 after an extradition order to Sweden over claims of sexual assault and rape allegations made by two women.
Although Sweden dropped its preliminary investigation into the rape accusation against Julian Assange in 2017, Assange chose not to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy due to fears of extradition to the United States.
In the Southwark Crown Court today Judge Deborah Taylor gave Assange a sentence close to the maximum of a year in custody, saying it was hard to “envisage a more serious example of this offense.”
Taylor said Assange’s seven years in the London’s Ecuadorian embassy had cost 16 million pounds (nearly AUD 29 million) of British taxpayers money, adding that he sought asylum as a “deliberate attempt to delay justice.”
In a letter read out in the court by his lawyer, Assange said he had found himself “struggling with terrifying circumstances” for which neither he nor those from whom he “sought advice could work out any remedy.”
“I apologize unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case. This is not what I wanted or intended,” Assange added.
Assange is currently facing extradition to the United States for leaking thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents through his popular publication WikiLeaks in 2010 that embarrassed the U.S. governments across the world.
U.S. authorities have not officially confirmed the charges against Assange until his arrest last month when for the first time, U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against the Australian hacker for his alleged role in “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
The DoJ, who is now seeking his extradition to the United States, accused Assange of trying to help Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, crack a password to Pentagon computers.
Assange has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, and if convicted, could face a five-year prison term in the U.S.