Assange granted bail and Sweden prepares to appeal


WIKILEAKS FOUNDER Julian Assange will stay in custody for at least another two days until an appeal by Swedish authorities to a magistrates’ court decision yesterday to grant him bail is heard in the High Court in London, following an extraordinary day of courtroom drama.

Mr Assange, who has been held in solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison since Sweden lodged an extradition request for him, was brought to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in Horseferry Court near the Houses of Parliament, yesterday afternoon, amid scenes of high security.

Just a few of Mr Assange’s supporters were able to get into Court No. 1. However, because of the number of international and local journalists present, his lawyer, Geoffrey Robinson, was forced to knock on the door to gain entry because security staff had barred more people from getting in. Magistrates abandoned normal court-room rules and let everyone present stand.

In granting bail, Judge Howard Riddle, who had denied such a request a week ago, ordered that Mr Assangne appear in court again on January 11th.

In the meantime he is to stay, subject to a curfew, in a mansion owned by Mr Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline club for journalists.

He was also ordered to wear an electronic tag.

The judge also ordered that a £240,000 surety should be lodged with the court, some from himself and some from supporters. But he was taken back to Wandsworth because supporters who had made pledges of money as surety had brought cheques, which take days to cash, rather than cash.

Confusion reigned for several hours afterwards, following reports the Swedish authorities, who want to interview him in connection with rape allegations, would not appeal the decision.

Eventually, it emerged they would appeal and the case is to be heard by the High Court in London within 48 hours.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Assange’s solicitor, Mark Stephens, said: “They clearly will not spare any expense to keep Mr Assange in jail. This is really turning into a show trial. We will be in court in the next 48 hours – they haven’t given us the courtesy to say when.

“It is an unfortunate state of affairs . . . but given their history of persecuting Mr Assange, it is perhaps not surprising.”

American documentary-maker Michael Moore was one of a number of high-profile people to offer $20,000 to help gain bail for the Australian.

Condemning the Swedish extradition bid and the attacks on WikiLeaks, Moore said: “Why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth.”

Promising the services of his website to keep WikiLeaks’ disclosures going, Moore said the United States had been taken to war in Iraq “on a lie” that left hundreds of thousands dead: “Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off.

“The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy.

“That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again,” he wrote, in an article for the Daily Kos.