Julian Assange’s stunning $25m apology
Seven years, countless legal arguments across four continents and more than $25 million later and Julian Assange has finally said the one word that had been alluding him - sorry.
In an extraordinary turnaround, the Australian Wikileaks founder has issued an unreserved apology for his actions which saw him holed up in the embassy of Ecuador in London for seven years.
His diplomatic asylum seeking in June 2012 came after the British courts ruled he should be extradited to Sweden to face claims made by two women of rape and molestation. Assange was also under intense pressure after Wikileaks released hundreds of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables on its whistleblowing website.
The 48-year-old Assange has today dropped his appeal against his 50-week jail term for jumping bail by going into hiding in the embassy in up-market Kensington, his asylum only ending after he was dramatically dragged out by police in April this year.
He was to appear for a hearing next week to fight his sentence - almost the maximum for such an offence - but has now written to the court to drop the action.
It was in his appeal drop that he apologised for his actions which had cost British taxpayers AUD$25.5 million in stationing police outside his embassy bolthole 24/7; the Ecuadorean government spent another $1.2 million in feeding him and reconfiguring the embassy to accommodate his lengthy stay and demands including a new bedroom, gym, kitchenette and more power to run his bank of servers to continue his cyber leaks campaign.
Southwark Crown Court Judge Deborah Taylor said it was the first time Assange had expressed contrition for his action which he accepted had placed him in a more serious position.
"I apologise unreservedly to those who consider that I have disrespected them by the way I have pursued my case," Assange said in a handwritten letter.
"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. While the difficulties I now face may have become even greater, nevertheless it is right for me to say this now."
He said his going into hiding was while he was "struggling with terrifying circumstances" of accusations being levelled against him in both Sweden and the United States.
Assange is still 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.
British 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.