Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison on Wednesday, the first of what may likely be multiple prison sentences in multiple countries.
As Yahoo Finance reports, Judge Deborah Taylor sentenced Assange to 50 weeks for jumping bail, saying she wanted to sentence him to the maximum of one year, largely because his sojourn in the Ecuadorian embassy had cost the British taxpayers so much money. Specifically, the seven years Assange spent in the embassy are believed to have cost the British taxpayers £16 million ($21 million).
Assange was arrested by U.K. police in 2010 after Sweden issued an international arrest warrant, as the Scandinavian country had wanted to prosecute him for rape. He bailed out of a British jail and then later sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he would spend the next seven years. Sweden eventually dropped the rape charges, and Ecuador rescinded Assange’s asylum, freeing the way for British police to arrest him.
Assange had remained in the embassy even after Sweden dropped the charges against him because, as he has repeatedly claimed, he was afraid he would be extradited to the United States. He has stated that he believes he would be tortured if he were taken to the U.S., and possibly even sent to Guantanamo Bay.
“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.”
British judge sentences WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012. https://t.co/CL3CdM3H2q— The Associated Press (@AP) May 1, 2019
Fears of torture and Guantanamo aside, Assange will likely be extradited to the U.S. at some point after he finishes his sentence in a British prison. As Reuters explains, there are international legal formalities that will have to be worked out, and Britain could theoretically deny the extradition request to the U.S., although that seems unlikely.
Once in the U.S., Assange will likely be tried for allegedly conspiring with Chelsea Manning to gain access to government computers. Specifically, American officials allege that in 2010, Assange and Manning (who at the time went by Bradley Manning) to crack the password on Defense Department computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), where classified information was stored.
Manning, for her part, was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years in prison for her role in leaking classified military documents to Wikileaks. She only served four years, her sentence having been commuted by then-president Barack Obama.