The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been found guilty of violating the conditions of provisional release for taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was sentenced Wednesday 1st May, 2019 to 50 weeks in prison for violation of his conditions of provisional release by the London court Southwark.
In 2012, the 47-year-old Australian, who had been the subject of a previously-filed rape lawsuit, fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid running for justice and being extradited to Sweden.
He has always claimed to have escaped British justice for fear of not being extradited to Sweden but to end up in the United States, who accuse him of “hacking”. And on Wednesday, his lawyer Mark Summers said in court that he acted out of “fear” of being extradited to the United States, demanding extenuating circumstances for his client in the “different and unusual” situation.
“Disregard the law”
“I apologize without reservation to those who feel that I have disrespected them,” Assange said in a letter read to the court by the lawyer before the verdict, explaining “regret” the turn that took the events. “I did what I thought was best at the time, and maybe the only thing to do.”
But for Judge Deborah Taylor, by “deliberately hiding in the embassy” of Ecuador, Assange “exploited (his) privileged position to flout the law”.
The US extradition request is to be heard Thursday by the Westminster court.
Complaint for sexual assault
In Sweden, the complaint of sexual assault was hit by the prescription in 2015, then the country abandoned the prosecution in a second case in May 2017, unable to advance the investigation with Julian Assange refugee in the embassy. But when her arrest was announced, the complainant’s lawyer called for the reopening of the investigation.
Julian Assange has always claimed to have evaded the British justice for fear not to be extradited to Sweden but to end up in the United States, who accuse him of “hacking”.
His arrest on April 11th rekindled these fears among his supporters who condemned Quito’s decision to remove him from political asylum. But the Ecuadorian president justified his decision by saying that Assange would have tried to create a “spying center” in the embassy.
In the UK, the case divides.
The Labour opposition has called on the government to oppose US demand, saying Julian Assange has helped “expose evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan” attributed to the US military.
The Conservative government, for its part, has attached itself to presenting Assange as a litigant like the others. “No one is above the law,” said Prime Minister Theresa May, while diplomat Jeremy Hunt said he was “not a hero.”
Request for extradition to the United States
Her lawyer Jennifer Robinson announced that her client would “challenge and fight” the US extradition request, saying that her arrest “creates a dangerous precedent for media outlets and journalists” around the world.
Julian Assange is indicted by US criminal conspiracy justice for “hacking”, punishable by up to five years in prison, for helping former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning get a password to access thousands of classified secret-defense documents.
But “there is no guarantee that there will be no additional charges (once) on US soil,” according to WikiLeaks editor Kristin Hrafnsson.
An unlikely scenario, however, according to extradition lawyer Ben Keith, who invokes “specific protection of international extradition law that prevents someone from being prosecuted with additional charges”.
According to him, the legal battle initiated by Julian Assange has little chance of success and could last between 18 months and two years.