JULIAN ASSANGE has been jailed for 50 weeks for breaching his bail conditions after going into hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
The WikiLeaks founder spent nearly seven years holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden until he was dragged out by police last month.
Assange wrote to Southwark crown court, apologising and saying that at the time he thought it was the ‘best and only thing that could be done’.
But judge Deborah Taylor said it was ‘difficult to envisage a more serious’ breach of the Bail Act. She said his actions cost at least £16million in public funds.
As Assange was led away to the cells, supporters shouted ‘free Julian’ and ‘shame on you’ to the court.
The Australian’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson (above), said: ‘Today is the first time that a British court has heard detailed evidence about the concerns and the fears that led Mr Assange to seek asylum inside the Ecuadorean embassy.’
In mitigation, Mark Summers QC told the court the Australian had been ‘gripped’ by fears his WikiLeaks work would provoke rendition to the US, where he could face the death penalty.
‘As threats rained down on him from America, they overshadowed everything as far as he was concerned,’ he said.
Earlier, Judge Taylor told the 47-year-old that he had used his ‘privileged position’ to ‘flout the law of this country’. She also said his actions ‘undoubtedly’ hindered prosecution efforts in Sweden where he faced sex allegations, which he denied and which were dropped in 2017.
Hours after Assange was evicted from the embassy after Ecuador ended his asylum on April 11, Westminster magistrates’ court found him guilty of failing to surrender to police in 2012.
Today he faces a hearing about his potential extradition to the US over claims he conspired with intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to infiltrate Pentagon computers. Assange denies the allegations.