By CCN: WikiLeaks Co-Founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in jail by a UK court for violating bail conditions back in 2012 when he took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy as he feared being extradited to the U.S. via Sweden.
Julian Assange will now have to spend at least half of his sentence, around six months, in a UK prison that could potentially delay his extradition to the U.S. as it throws open the possibility of yet another twist in the tale.
Assange will have to serve at least half his 50 week sentence for skipping bail. Time served since arrest will be taken into account. @SBSNews
— Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) May 1, 2019
Sweden could hijack the U.S.’ extradition request
Assange’s sentencing by London’s Southwark Crown Court comes just a day before the Westminster Magistrate Court holds a hearing regarding his extradition to the U.S.
But now that he will have to spend at least six months in a UK prison, with his parole “subject to conditions and outcome of any other proceedings,” there’s a chance that Sweden could get back into the game of getting Assange.
Julian Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, fearing that he would be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden. A UK judge had ordered the WikiLeaks co-founder to be extradited to Sweden where he would have faced charges of rape and sexual assault.
But Assange holed up in the embassy as he believed that the charges are false and were simply a pretext to get him into U.S. hands. As a result, he could not be extradited to Sweden to face the charges.
The sexual assault claims brought against Assange eventually expired in 2015 and the rape claim was dropped a couple of years later. Also, Sweden’s extradition request has lapsed.
However, prosecutors in Sweden had said that they could revive the case if Assange became available for investigation. The fact that Assange will now be spending at least six months in a British jail will give Swedish prosecutors the time to reopen the case. However, it remains to be seen if London prioritizes any formal extradition request from Stockholm over the existing request from the U.S.
But don’t be surprised if Sweden’s extradition request gets preference over the U.S.
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
Why the UK might not send Julian Assange to the US
The BBC reports:
“More than 70 UK MPs and peers have signed a letter urging Home Secretary Sajid Javid to ensure Assange faces authorities in Sweden if they want his extradition.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the UK’s opposition Labour leader, doesn’t want Julian Assange to be sent to the U.S. where he could face up to five years in prison for releasing classified documents that exposed corruption within the government and the military.
The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.pic.twitter.com/CxTUrOfkHt
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) April 11, 2019
The general mood among the British media is also not favorable of extradition to the U.S. as it is believed that doing so would threaten journalistic freedom. Moreover, there’s a past precedent of the UK blocking a U.S. extradition request.
Back in 2012, the then Home Secretary Theresa May had denied extraditing computer hacker Gary McKinnon to the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, citing that he was “seriously ill.”
In all, there’s a possibility that the UK government doesn’t want to be seen in a bad light by extraditing Julian Assange to the U.S. and risk the wrath of the British media, as well as antagonizing political figures. As such, Julian Assange could instead end up in Sweden.
If that happens and the U.S. files an extradition request with Sweden, the latter will face a ton of obstacles before Assange sets foot on American soil. This means that the UK court’s decision of jailing the WikiLeaks founder could keep him from falling into American hands for a long time to come.