Assange drops 50-week bail breach jail term appeal

Julian Assange has dropped an appeal against his 50-week jail term for jumping bail by going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy.

The WikiLeaks founder entered the embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted in connection with sexual offences allegations.

He spent nearly seven years living in the embassy until being dramatically dragged out by police in April after Ecuador revoked his political asylum.

Julian Assange arrested
Julian Assange arrested

The 48-year-old was jailed for 50 weeks for breaching his bail conditions, just short of the one-year maximum for the offence.

He lodged an appeal against the length of his sentence and a hearing was due to take place at the Court of Appeal in London on July 23.

But Assange is no longer pursuing the appeal and a spokeswoman for the judiciary confirmed on Thursday that the planned hearing had been cancelled.

Sentencing him at Southwark Crown Court in May, Judge Deborah Taylor said it was “difficult to envisage a more serious example” of breaching the Bail Act.

Police carry WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy after he was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police
Police carry WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy after he was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police

Assange wrote to the court to apologise for his actions, which he said he regretted and acknowledged may have placed him in a more serious situation.

Judge Taylor said this was the first time he had expressed contrition over his actions, which she stated cost at least £16 million in public funds.

She said: “Firstly, by entering the embassy, you deliberately put yourself out of reach, whilst remaining in the UK.

“You remained there for nearly seven years, exploiting your privileged position to flout the law and advertise internationally your disdain for the law of this country.”

Supporters of Julian Assange outside Westminster Magistrates' Court
Supporters of Julian Assange outside Westminster Magistrates' Court

She also said his actions “undoubtedly” affected Swedish prosecutors’ efforts, which were discontinued in May 2017 “not least because you remained in the embassy”.

In a handwritten letter to the court, Assange said he went into hiding while “struggling with terrifying circumstances”.

He added: “I apologise unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case.

“I did what I thought at the time was the best and perhaps the only thing that could be done, which I hoped might lead to a legal resolution being reached between Ecuador and Sweden that would protect me from the worst of my fears.

“I regret the course that this took.

“Whilst the difficulties I now face may have become even greater, nevertheless it is right for me to say this now.”

Assange entered the embassy on June 19 2012 while under intense scrutiny over the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables on his whistle-blowing website.

The drastic move came after he exhausted all legal options in fighting extradition to Sweden over two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation.

Assange, claiming he was the subject of an American “witch hunt”, said he was at risk of being taken to the US if he was sent to the Scandinavian nation.

His eviction from the embassy on April 11 came after a souring of relations, with Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno claiming Assange had tried to use the Knightsbridge site for spying.

Hours later, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where he was found guilty of the bail breach after failing to surrender to police on June 29 2012.

Assange is fighting extradition to the US where he faces 18 charges including allegations of conspiring with intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a classified Pentagon computer.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed off an extradition request from the US and a full court hearing is due to take place in February next year.

An investigation has also been reopened into an allegation of rape in Sweden, which Assange has always denied.