WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for violating his bail and going into hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy, seven years ago, a sentence that comes just a day before a hearing is set to take place concerning his extradition to the U.S.
Assange was sentenced on Wednesday after his appearance at London’s Southwark Crown Court. After the judge handed the sentence, a group of protesters shouted “shame on you.”
He breached his bail back in 2012 amid threats of extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
In a letter read to the court, Assange said he was “struggling with difficult circumstances” and apologized to those who “consider I've disrespected them.”
He added: “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done.”
Judge Deborah Taylor insisted that Assange deserved near the maximum sentence of one year because of the seriousness of his offense. She rejected calls for leniency because of the nearly seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
The Australian founder of WikiLeaks remained defiant and raised a fist in the air to his supporters as he was taken down to the prison.
Assange has been held in prison since his arrest last month after the Ecuadorian authorities revoked his political asylum and kicked him out of the embassy on April 11.
The government of Ecuador accused WikiLeaks and Assange of meddling in the country’s politics.
But the sentence on Wednesday is just a sideshow for Assange, who faces the main battle on Thursday.
He’s set to appear at a court hearing on a U.S. extradition request. The U.S. authorities charged Assange with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system.
He faces up to five years in a U.S. prison if convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.