UN panel calls WikiLeaks founder's UK sentence excessive

Protestors demonstrate at the entrance of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing a court hearing over a U.S. request to extradite him for allegedly conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer. Assange is expected to appear by video link from prison for the hearing at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Protestors demonstrate at the entrance of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to appear by video link from prison. Assange is facing a court hearing over a U.S. request to extradite him for alleged computer hacking.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Assange supporters block a major roadway in front of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing court over a U.S. request to extradite him for alleged computer hacking.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A supporter of Julian Assange, with a poster of the WikiLeaks founder, joins other protesters to block a major road in front of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing court over a U.S. request to extradite him for alleged computer hacking. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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)
British activist Lauri Love protests at the entrance of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, May 2, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing a court hearing over a U.S. request to extradite him for allegedly conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer. Assange is expected to appear by video link from prison for the hearing at London's Westminster Magistrates' Court. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

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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