(WikiLeaks founder breached bail by entering Ecuadorian embassy seven years ago)
Julian Assange has been sentenced to just under a year in jail for breaching bail conditions after spending almost seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
A judge largely rejected the mitigating factorsput forward by lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder, who had also written a letter in which he expressed regret for his actions but claimed he had been left with no choice.
In the letter, read out in court by his lawyer, Mark Summers, Assange said: “I apologise 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.
WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson (centre left) and barrister Jennifer Robinson (centre right) outside Southwark crown court after Assange sentencing.Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
“I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy. I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done – which I hoped might lead to a legal resolution being reached between Ecuador and Sweden that would protect me from the worst of my fears.
“I regret the course that this took; the difficulties were instead compounded and impacted upon very many others. While the difficulties I now face may have become even greater, nevertheless it is right for me to say this now.”
Assange, who took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape accusations, was arrested on 11 April after Ecuador terminated his asylum.
By entering the embassy he deliberately put himself out of range of investigators, she told Assange. “You exploited your privileged position to flout the law and advertised internationally your disdain for the law of this country,” she added.
She also told him that even though he did cooperate initially with the investigation “it was not for you to decide the nature of your cooperation with the Swedish investigation” and his continued residency in the embassy had been an attempt to delay and thwart the process.
The judge also referred to the expenditure of £16m of taxpayers’ money on policing resources outside the embassy for the period in which he was there.
“It is essential that no one is above or beyond the reach of the law,” she concluded, before sentencing Assange to 50 weeks.
Counsel for Assange had laid out a number of mitigating factors, claiming that Assange lived in fear of being rendered from Sweden to the US, where politicians had talked of having him assassinated.
The case of Chelsea Manning and the conditions in which the US military whistleblower was kept was also instanced, as was the case of individuals who were rendered from Sweden to the US in chains and after being drugged for transatlantic flights.