WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison, just shy of a year, for jumping bail in London back in the summer of 2012. Assange appeared before a UK court this morning and received close to the maximum sentence, but may only serve half of his 50-week sentence after other factors like “time served” are taken into account.
Assange’s lawyer read a letter to the court that claimed the WikiLeaks publisher “found himself struggling with terrifying circumstances” in 2012 and apologized to those who “consider I’ve disrespected them.” It’s unclear why Assange didn’t read the letter himself.
“I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done,” the letter read, according to the BBC.
Supporters of Assange reportedly shouted “shame on you” at the judge while she left the court room.
Assange was accused of sexual assault related crimes in Sweden back in 2010, leading to his arrest in London in 2012. The Swedish charges were dropped while Assange had asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London but those charges may be brought again.
Assange was physically dragged out of the embassy on April 11 after claiming asylum and living there for nearly 7 years. Assange’s largest concern when he fled to the embassy was that he would be extradited to the United States, something that’s still a very real possibility.
The U.S. Justice Department has charged Assange with conspiracy to hack a classified computer. Assange allegedly instructed Chelsea Manning, a former Army private, to crack the password of a Defense Department computer that American prosecutors say was connected to the government’s classified documents, the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet). The password crack attempt reportedly failed, but Manning still leaked documents to Assange from other sources.
Assange faces up to five years in prison on the current charge in the U.S.