UN panel calls WikiLeaks founder's UK sentence excessive

Kristinn Hrafnsson, Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks and barrister Jennifer Robinson, right, address the media outside Westminster Magistrate Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, seen in poster behind, is facing court over a U.S. request to extradite him for alleged computer hacking. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

A panel of legal experts for the United Nations has criticized the 50-week sentence a British judge gave WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for jumping bail in Britain

LONDON — A panel of legal experts affiliated with the United Nations has criticized the 50-week sentence a British judge imposed on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for jumping bail.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said Friday that Assange's punishment was "disproportionate" for his "minor violation." The panel questioned why he is being held in a high security prison "as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offense."

A judge in London sentenced the 47-year-old Assange on Wednesday for taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy while he was on bail awaiting extradition to Sweden

The U.N. panel declared in a non-binding 2016 opinion and again in December that Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of freedom because he feared arrest if he left the embassy.

The British government rejected the panel's conclusions.

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