US & World

British Judge Sentences Julian Assange To 50 Weeks In Prison

Julian Assange gestures seen inside a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court in London on April 11. The WikiLeaks founder was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British judge on Wednesday.
Julian Assange gestures seen inside a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court in London on April 11. The WikiLeaks founder was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British judge on Wednesday.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British judge.

The controversial founder of WikiLeaks was arrested in April after being pushed out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had been living since 2012, avoiding an international arrest warrant.

Judge Deborah Taylor said Assange's time in the embassy had cost British taxpayers the equivalent of $21 million, and that he had sought asylum in a "deliberate attempt to delay justice," according to Reuters.

Supporters of the 47-year-old, who see him as a light shining truth on government abuses of power, shouted "Free Julian Assange" as the van that transported him left Southward Crown Court.

Protesters congregated nearby, criticizing the mainstream media and reportedly repeated the words "Shame on you" to the judge.

Assange was wanted on charges of sexual misconduct and he faced extradition to Sweden, but Ecuador granted him asylum. Assange has maintained that he is innocent.

Assange is scheduled to face another court hearing Thursday, as he faces the possibility of extradition to the United States. The U.S. Justice Department has accused him of helping former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in cracking a password stored on Department of Defense computers. Authorities said the trove of classified documents that WikiLeaks eventually published threatened U.S. national security.

Manning was convicted and served more than six years in prison. Her 35-year sentence was commuted by then-President Barack Obama.

Federal investigators have also said that Assange and WikiLeaks played an integral role in the Russian attack on the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors contend that Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, gave Assange data it had pilfered during that time.

WikiLeaks called Assange's sentence on Wednesday "as shocking as it is vindictive." The organization said it has "grave concerns as to whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing in the UK."

WikiLeaks' Icelandic editor, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told reporters that Thursday's hearing would be the "big fight," a battle over Assange's extradition to the United States.

"What is at stake there could be a question of life and death for Mr. Assange," he said. "It is also a question of life and death for a major journalistic principle."

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