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    Banners in support of arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are seen on the pavement in front of Westminster Magistrates Court in London

    Assange's Sentence Signals Start of Campaign to Curb Press Freedom - Activists

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    WikiLeaks Founder Assange Arrested in London as Ecuador Withdraws Political Asylum (84)
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    LONDON (Sputnik) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's tough sentence for breaching bail in the United Kingdom marked the beginning of a deliberate campaign to silence critical journalists' voices and curb press freedom, Christine Dopf, spokeswoman for the Unity4J campaign, told Sputnik.

    "This is the first in a series of events that are ultimately intended to silence dissent and degrade press freedom. The persecution of Julian Assange (and [US whistleblower] Chelsea Manning) gives whistleblowers and at-risk journalists less of a chance at being meaningfully protected and supported than they did when Assange was at the helm of WikiLeaks", Dopf said on Wednesday.

    The spokeswoman added that the ruling was based solely on political motivations.

    "It's abundantly clear that the persecution of Julian Assange is political…. [Wednesday's] judgment was in line with previous actions by UK Judges who have made it clear that they intend to throw the book atJulian. This isn't about justice for them — it's about making an example of him. It's about retribution", Dopf said. 

    The statement comes a day after a London court sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaching bail by going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. The whistleblower's supporters were outraged by the tough ruling.

    READ MORE: Australian Gov't Continues to Assist Assange, Visits Him in Prison — Spokesman

    On 1 May, Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of the WikiLeaks non-profit organization that publishes classified information, also expressed outrage over the ruling, saying that it was "vindictive" and "outrageous".

    Later on 2 March, Assange appeared in London court to face a hearing on the US request for his extradition. The hearing started at 11 a.m. local time (10:00 GMT) in Westminster Magistrate Court. The US Department of Justice said it was seeking to extradite Assange over "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion" for allegedly agreeing with Manning to break a password to a classified US government computer.

    Topic:
    WikiLeaks Founder Assange Arrested in London as Ecuador Withdraws Political Asylum (84)

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    press freedom, Wikileaks, Julian Assange, United Kingdom
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