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The Working Group said in a statement today that it was “disproportionate” and they were “deeply concerned”,
Julian Assange’s 50-week prison sentence ‘concerning’, United Nations says
The UN has claimed Julian Assange’s prison sentence is “disproportionate”, dismissing his skipping bail as a “minor violation”.
Assange, 47, lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost seven years – a self-imposed exile which cost the taxpayer £16m.
He took refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, which he has denied.
The WikiLeaks co-founder was dragged from the building by police officers last month after relations between him and the embassy soured, and he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation.
Now rights experts from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have criticised the length of his sentence, which was close to the maximum penalty which can be given for the offence.
They have also criticised the UK authorities for jailing Assange in high-security Belmarsh Prison in south east London, where he has been detained for the last three weeks.
The Working Group said in a statement today that it was “disproportionate” and they were “deeply concerned”, adding: “The Working Group is of the view that violating bail is a minor violation that, in the United Kingdom, carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison.
“It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden.
“It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr Assange and that, in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case.
“The Working Group is further concerned that Mr Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh Prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence.
“This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.”
Assange’s lawyer and the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks talk to reporters outside Southwark Crown Court – Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/REXAssange’s lawyer and the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks talk to reporters outside Southwark Crown Court Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/REXThe Working Group has previously said that Assange was arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian embassy and should have had his liberty restored.
Assange is also fighting an extradition request by the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.
The website has published thousands of classified documents, covering wide-ranging subjects including the film industry, national security and war.
WikiLeaks has said Assange is living in “appalling” conditions at the prison, spending 23 hours a day in his cell.
During a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last month after he was ejected from the embassy, Assange sat silently in the dock reading a book by Gore Vidal.
On Wednesday, a judge revealed his self-imposed exile had drained £16m from the public purse, largely for a round-the-clock police watch lasting three years. yahoophoto-Julian Assange gestures from a prison van as he is driven to Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday – AFP