WikiLeaks Founder Granted Bail, But Stays In jail For Now

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail Tuesday after a hearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London, but a lawyer representing Swedish prosecutors immediately filed an appeal.

That means Assange will remain in jail until the next hearing, which should be within 48 hours, lawyers said.

 The 39-year-old Australian handed himself over to London police last week to answer a European arrest warrant over alleged crimes in Sweden.

He could be sentenced to two years in prison if convicted. His lawyers deny the allegations and have vowed to fight any attempts at extradition.

The magistrate agreed to grant bail Tuesday after Assange’s team of attorneys reported that Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer who founded London’s Frontline Club, had offered his mansion in Suffolk to Assange.

Smith will keep Assange “if not under house arrest, at least under mansion arrest,” said defense attorney Geoffrey Robinson. At that, Assange, dressed in a white shirt and a blue jacket and sitting in a glassed-in corner of the court with three security guards, smiled wryly.

The magistrate set bail at 200,000 pounds (about $315,000) plus two sureties of 20,000 pounds each (about $31,500). Assange’s passport must remain with police, and he will be monitored by a location tag.

Assange must be at Smith’s mansion, about two hours outside of London, for at least four hours overnight and four hours during the day. He will be required to report to police daily between 6 and 8 p.m. The next court hearing was scheduled for January 11.

After the conditions were set, Assange stood and said, “I understand,” with a neutral expression.

Outside the court, about 100 people demonstrated in support of Assange, holding signs saying “Julian Assange is a political prisoner” and “Why are you shooting the messenger? This is not 1984.”

During the hearing, Assange’s team of attorneys argued that since he is only wanted for questioning and has not been formally charged, he is presumed innocent. The magistrate agreed.

But, said Gemma Lindfield, the attorney representing the Swedish prosecution, “The court has already found that Mr. Assange is a flight risk. Nothing has changed in this regard.”

She said if the alleged offenses had occurred in Britain, “it undoubtedly would have been a charge of rape in this jurisdiction.”

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military documents is also under criminal review in the United States.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he had authorized “significant” actions related to a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ publication of the materials but has declined to elaborate.

An attorney for the WikiLeaks founder, citing Swedish authorities, has said a secret grand jury is meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, to consider charges related to the release of the documents.

WikiLeaks inflamed U.S. authorities last month by publishing the first of a large group of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables.

Only a small fraction of the 250,000 U.S. State Department documents have been released and more are being published daily.

U.S. authorities and other Western leaders say the documents’ publication threatens lives and national security.

WikiLeaks and its supporters say that the public has a right to know what is going on behind diplomatic doors.

Assange has been in custody since handing himself over to police last week.

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(Read More: CNN)




1 COMMENT

  1. If the British have their way they’ll look the other way and let him escape, likt the Scots did in letting the convicted Locherbie bomber leave for Libya while lying about the reason. There’s a Jewish adage that goes, in essence, he who is merciful to the wicked will end up being wicked to the merciful.