On Wednesday, a British judge sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail seven years ago and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Assange’s written apology and his lawyer’s argument that he sought refuge in the embassy because of overwhelming fear of being taken from Sweden, where he faced sexual misconduct allegations, did not sway Judge Deborah Taylor. “It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law,” Taylor said. “Orders of the court are to be obeyed.”
Assange had lived in the South American country’s London embassy since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women. He was arrested by British police April 11 after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, accusing him of everything from meddling in the nation’s foreign affairs to poor hygiene.
Assange faces a separate court hearing Thursday on a U.S. extradition request. American authorities have charged Assange with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said after the sentencing that the extradition battle with the U.S. is now the “big fight” facing Assange. “It will be a question of life and death for Mr. Assange,” he said.
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