Breach of bail sentencing hearing
On 1 May 2019, at Southwark Crown Court, Mr Assange was given a custodial sentence of 50 weeks for failing to surrender to bail in September 2012. The sentence was 2 weeks shorter than the maximum.
During the sentencing hearing, Mr Assange’s lawyers made detailed submissions relating to:
• the fact that Mr Assange lived in fear that he would be assassinated if he were to be extradited to the US;
• Mr Assange’s fears that he may be imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay or given the death penalty;
• the treatment of WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning who was allegedly kept in poor conditions and the alleged drugging and restraint of other individuals who had been rendered from Sweden to the US;
• the fact that Mr Assange’s choice to be indefinitely detained in a small room in the Ecuadorian Embassy in a state of depression and pain from his various medical conditions served as evidence of his genuine fears relating to his extradition.
In her sentencing remarks, Judge Taylor explained that this was the most serious example of the offence of breaching bail and that in staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy for nearly 7 years, Mr Assange has cost the British taxpayer £16m and had adversely affected the progress of the Swedish rape investigation against him to the extent that the Swedish Authorities were forced to drop the case. Judge Taylor gave Mr Assange credit for the days he had spent remanded in custody, where he had been imprisoned since 11 April 2019. The Judge went on to say that “it is essential to the Rule of Law that nobody is above or beyond the reach of the law.” It was also noted by the Judge that Mr Assange’s written apology for his actions, which was given to Metropolitan police officers when he was arrested in the Ecuadorian Embassy, was the first indication that he regretted his actions.
First hearing relating to the US extradition request
On 2 May 2019, Mr Assange, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link from HMP Belmarsh. During the hearing, Mr Assange confirmed that he will be contesting his extradition to the US. The Prosecutor representing the US government said that Mr Assange was accused of conspiracy to hack a government computer with Ms Manning between January and May 2010 and leaking “90,000 war-related significant activity reports relating to Afghanistan as well as 400,000 reports relating to military activity in Iraq, 800 detainee reports relating to Guantánamo Bay and 250,000 US diplomatic cables.” It was also confirmed that the US government had collected evidence of chatroom communication between Mr Assange and Ms Manning in which Mr Assange agreed to help Ms Manning crack a computer password to download the records.
At the end of the 15- minute hearing, Judge Snow adjourned the case until 30 May 2019.
Timeline of events
2006-Wikileaks is founded by Australian Computer Programmer Julian Assange.
2006-2010- Wikileaks publishes leaked documents relating to alleged American war crimes, human rights abuses and corruption. Towards the end of 2010, Wikileaks publishes information relating to the US’ involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US government launched a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks.
November 2010- Sweden issue a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Assange’s arrest in relation to allegations of sexual assault and rape against two women whom Mr Assange allegedly attacked in 2010 whilst he was at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm.
7 December 2010- Mr Assange surrendered to UK police and was remanded on bail whilst investigations continued.
August 2012- Mr Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador and he moved in to the Ecuadorian Embassy.
September 2012- Mr Assange failed to surrender to court and therefore breached the conditions of his remand on bail.
2016- During the U.S. Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks hosted emails sent and received by Hilary Clinton’s private server when she was Secretary of State. The U.S. Intelligence Community, and Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation, concluded that the Russian Government interfered with the 2016 US Presidential Elections through various means including hacking confidential government documents.
May 2017-Mr Assange was still housed in the Ecuadorian Embassy, when Swedish authorities suspended their investigations and applied to revoke the European arrest warrant. The London Metropolitan Police then indicated that an arrest warrant was in force for Mr Assange’s failure to surrender himself to his bail.
11 April 2019- Ecuador revoked Mr Assange’s asylum and he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police at the Ecuadorian embassy. The US requests Mr Assange’s extradition on one count of conspiracy to hack a government computer. The U.S. indictment accuses Mr Assange of assisting Chelsea Manning in cracking a password that helped the former intelligence analyst hack into Pentagon computers.
1 May 2019- Julian Assange is sentenced, at Southwark Crown Court, to a 50-week prison sentence for breaching bail when he absconded in September 2012. Swedish prosecutors also confirm that they are considering reopening their rape investigation now that his asylum has been revoked by the Ecuadorian authorities.
2 May 2019- Mr Assange’s extradition hearing relating to the American extradition request begins.