May 1, 2019 - 16:03 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A British court sentenced Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, to 50 weeks in prison on Wednesday, May 1 for jumping bail when he took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London seven years ago, The New York Times reports.
His complex legal travails are far from over: The United States is seeking Assange’s extradition for prosecution there, and an initial hearing on that request is expected on Thursday. Officials in Sweden have left open the possibility that he could face criminal charges in that country, as well.
Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to hack into a Pentagon computer network; a federal indictment accuses him of helping an Army private to illegally download classified information in 2010, much of it about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which WikiLeaks then made public. He has denied the charge.
Assange, 47, was arrested on April 11 after the Ecuadorean government withdrew its protection of him and allowed the police to take him out of the embassy in London, where he had lived since 2012. The same day, he appeared in court and was convicted on the charge of skipping bail.
Assange argued that he should not be jailed for the offense, because he was effectively imprisoned in the embassy. On Wednesday, in Southwark Crown Court in London, Judge Deborah Taylor rejected that claim.
“It’s difficult to envisage a more serious example of this offense,” she told Assange, British news organizations reported. “By hiding in the embassy you deliberately put yourself out of reach, while remaining in the U.K.”
Before he was sentenced, the court heard an apology letter by Mr. Assange, in which he said that he was “struggling with difficult circumstances.”
“I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done,” he said, according to British news reports. “I regret the course that that has taken.”