WikiLeaks founder Assange jailed 50 weeks for bail offence

LONDON • A British court has sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in jail for jumping bail when he took refuge in Ecuador's Embassy in London seven years ago.

His complex legal travails are far from over: The United States is seeking Assange's extradition for prosecution there, and officials in Sweden have left open the possibility that he could face criminal charges in that country.

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 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 offence, because he was effectively imprisoned in the embassy.

Yesterday, Judge Deborah Taylor rejected that claim and said that he could have left at any time.

His legal odyssey began in 2010, when prosecutors in Sweden sought to question him about alleged sexual assaults there, which he denies.

Eventually, he had to post bail to remain free while fighting extradition to Sweden, which he insisted would then send him to the US.

After exhausting his appeals in the British courts, rather than submit to extradition, Assange took refuge in Ecuador's Embassy, violating the terms of his bail. Ecuador granted him asylum and, eventually, citizenship.

He continued his work from the embassy, and in 2016, WikiLeaks released thousands of e-mails hacked from the Democratic National Committee and the personal account of Mr John Podesta, chairman of Mrs Hillary Clinton's campaign, intending to harm her candidacy.

Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that the e-mails were stolen by Russian intelligence agents, which Assange denies.

However, he is believed to have strong ties to the Kremlin.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2019, with the headline 'WikiLeaks founder Assange jailed 50 weeks for bail offence'. Print Edition | Subscribe