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Following seven years of imprisonment at the Ecuadorian embassy fighting US extradition, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks behind bars for an entirely bogus bail charge.
Sky News reporter Jordan Milne live-tweeted events as they unfolded, reporting that Assange's defense argued that his fears of rendition and torture at the hands of the US government were well-founded. His life in the Ecuadorian embassy and the physical and psychological detriments which came with it were described, including deteriorated health and depression. The judge rejected his entire defense and delivered nearly the harshest sentence possible.
"Your continued residence in the Embassy has necessitated a concentration of resources, and expenditure of £16 million of taxpayers' money in ensuring that when you did leave, you were brought to justice," Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange upon his sentencing.
This is bulls*it. Assange's residency at the embassy never cost taxpayers a penny; it was the British government's decision to pour money into patrolling the embassy around the clock with police who had orders to arrest Assange on sight over a petty bail charge. It was the British government's decision to persuade the Swedish government not to drop its investigation in 2013 so that it could pursue the agenda to arrest Assange for US extradition.
Assange's residency didn't cost British taxpayers anything; the agenda to imprison and extradite a journalist for publishing facts is what cost taxpayers £16 million. There is one reason and one reason only that the British government saw fit to spend £16 million of taxpayers' money patrolling that embassy, and it wasn't because they really, really hate bail violations.
No, the one and only reason the UK government found it reasonable to invest £16 million in patrolling the Ecuadorian embassy is because it had an agenda to help the US war machine punish someone who embarrassed it. And now the cost of that UK government agenda is being used to justify nearly a year behind bars after years of arbitrary detention.
Julian Assange's sentence, for seeking and receiving asylum, is twice as much as the sentencing guidelines. The so-called speedboat killer, convicted of manslaughter, was only sentenced to six months for failing to appear in court.
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 1, 2019
"Julian Assange's sentence, for seeking and receiving asylum, is twice as much as the sentencing guidelines," WikiLeaks tweeted. "The so-called speedboat killer, convicted of manslaughter, was only sentenced to six months for failing to appear in court."
The bail charge itself is entirely illegitimate. As scholar and WikiLeaks advocate Simon Floth explains, under British law bail is only legally breached if there's a failure to meet bail "without reasonable cause", which the human right to seek asylum certainly is. The UK itself was clearly unconvinced of its own authority to charge someone who was under political asylum for jumping bail, waiting a full nine days before issuing an arrest warrant in 2012.
After the Swedish government decided to drop its sexual assault investigation in 2017 without issuing any charges, Assange's legal team attempted last year to get the warrant dropped. The judge in that case, Emma Arbuthnot, just happens to be married to former Tory junior Defense Minister and government whip James Arbuthnot, who served as director of Security Intelligence Consultancy SC Strategy Ltd with a former head of MI6. Arbuthnot denied Assange's request with extreme vitriol, despite his argument that British law does have provisions which allow for the time he'd already served under house arrest to count toward far more time than would be served for violating bail.
Julian Assange's sentence is as shocking as it is vindictive. We have grave concerns as to whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing in the UK.
WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 1, 2019
All this of course pales in comparison to the far more grave threat Assange faces tomorrow, when his hearing for US extradition begins.