London: WikLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in the UK.
Speaking on the steps of Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said the sentence was an “outrage” and noted that it was “almost double the sentencing guideline”, said an Euronews report.
Assange was arrested in London last month for skipping bail in 2012 in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden on charges of rape and sexual assault.
Assange is wanted in the UK for breaching his conditions of bail in 2012 — his bail was granted amid a case that would see him extradited to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.
He sought asylum from Ecuador’s embassy in the UK capital, where he was welcomed by the country’s then president Rafael Correa.
But increased tensions with Correa’s successor Lenin Moreno, who said Assange was “discourteous and aggressive” during his seven-year tenure inside the embassy, led to his asylum being withdrawn.
Judge Deborah Taylor scolded Assange as she delivered the sentence on Wednesday morning, saying his extended stay had cost UK taxpayers £16 million (€18.5 million) and reminded him that he was “not above the law”.
“You were not living under prison conditions,” she added. “You could have left anytime.”
Protesters outside Southwark Crown Court chanted in anger and “disgust” after the sentence was announced.
They bellowed: “Freedom of speech; free Julian Assange.”
Assange is also wanted in the US over an investigation into WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in April that the charge related specifically over conspiracy to commit computer intrusion “by cracking a password” with US whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who served 7 years in prison for the huge data leak.
A hearing on the US extradition request is due to be held on Thursday.
Hrafnsson said Thursday’s hearing would be the start of “the big and most important fight” against extradition to the US.
He added: “It could be a question of life or death for Mr Assange. It is also a question of life or death for a major journalistic principle.”