WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a UK judge for breaching bail conditions.
Assange was sentenced at London's Southwark crown court on Wednesday, almost three weeks after he was dramatically dragged from Ecuador's embassy in London when the South American country revoked his asylum.
Judge Deborah Taylor handed him a sentence of 50 weeks, concluding that he "deliberately put [himself] out of reach", had cost British taxpayers £16 million, and did not surrender willingly. Assange had faced a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
"It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law," she said in sentencing remarks published after the the hearing.
In a letter read out in court before he was sentenced, Assange apologised to those who “consider I’ve disrespected them”, adding that he had found himself “struggling with difficult circumstances”.
“I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done,” he said.
Taylor said that while Assange "may have had fears" about what would happen to him, he "had a choice".
"The course of action you chose was to commit this offence in the manner and with the features I have already outlined," she said.
Assange was pictured raising his fist as he arrived at the court on Wednesday morning from prison, where he has been held since his arrest on April 11.
The 47-year-old Australian sought refuge in Ecuador's embassy in 2012, skipping bail to avoid extradition over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
Ecuador President Lenín Moreno said that Assange's asylum status had been revoked because he had shown "discourteous and aggressive behaviour", and "violated the norm" of not intervening in "internal affairs of other states".
Swedish prosecutors closed their investigation into Assange in 2017 partly due to the statute of limitations on one of the claims against Assange elapsing, but the country has said it could reopen the case.
Assange will appear in court via video link on Thursday for a separate US extradition hearing. It is likely to be the start of a lengthy legal process.
He faces a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer. He could spend up to five years in prison if convicted, but may yet face further charges.
Hazel is a news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hazel Shearing at email@example.com.
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