LONDON, May 1. /TASS/. A London court has sentenced WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to 50 weeks in prison for violating the conditions of his bail.
The sentence was announced on Wednesday at the Southwark Crown Court.
Judge Deborah Taylor said it was difficult to "envisage a more serious example of the offense" and even given the alleviating circumstances the sentence was close to the maximum one. Assange could have faced a maximum prison term of one year or 52 weeks.
"It is essential to the rule of law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law. Orders of the Court are to be obeyed," she said. According to her, there is no reasonable excuse for Assange’s behavior. She also rejected calls for leniency based on the seven years Assange had spent in the embassy.
The judge stressed that Assange could request early parole after serving half of the term if he did not commit any other violations.
Assange’s lawyer Marc Summers told the court his client was forced to act because he feared "kidnap and torture" by the United States, but the judge called the argument "unrealistic."
On Thursday, London’s Westminster Magistrates' Court is due to start considering a US request on Assange’s extradition. The US Department of Justice accuses Assange of collusion with the goal of gaining unauthorized access to data stored on the computers owned by the US government.
Assange founded the WikiLeaks portal in 2006 to publish classified information about the activities of a number of governments, including that of the United States. After harassment charges had been brought against him in Sweden in 2012, Assange sought refuge in London's Ecuadorian Embassy to escape extradition. The rape case was dropped in 2017 but the United Kingdom continued to insist that Assange be arrested over his failure to appear in court in London.
Assange was arrested by the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police on April 11 after Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno had announced the withdrawal of his asylum. His lawyers say that if extradited to the United States, Assange may face a 35-year prison term or capital punishment. The US Department of Justice has said, though, that Assange may get a five-year prison term at most for computer hacking.