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British judge set to rule on Assange's bail

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-16

A judge will rule Thursday on the possible release of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held in solitary confinement in a London prison. A warrant has been issued for his extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual assault case.

AFP - Wikileaks founder Julian Assange hears Thursday if he is to be freed on bail after more than a week in prison following his arrest on a Swedish warrant for questioning about alleged sex crimes.         

The 39-year-old Australian arrived at the High Court in London ahead of the 11:30 am (11:30 GMT) hearing in a van from Wandsworth prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement virtually since his arrest on December 7.
             
He was granted bail on Tuesday, subject to electronic tagging, a curfew and a 240,000-pound (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar) surety, but prosecution lawyers acting for Sweden appealed the decision. They will present their case at Thursday's hearing.
             
Sweden wants Britain to extradite Assange for questioning over claims of rape and sexual molestation against two women in Stockholm in August, which he denies and which his lawyers claim are politically motivated.
             
             
If released on bail, Assange will have to live at the country estate of Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, a media club in London where Wikileaks has based part of its operations.
             
The subsequent extradition proceedings could take months.
             
But before he is freed, his supporters - including maverick US film director Michael Moore, British director Ken Loach, and campaigning socialite Bianca Jagger - must come up with 200,000 pounds of the bail money in cash.
             
One of Assange's lawyers, Mark Stephens, told reporters outside court: "We believe we will have the money today. It appears to be in the banking system."
             
He added of Thursday's hearing: "We are hopeful but of course it is a matter entirely for the judge."
             
The decision to challenge Assange's bail was taken by British state prosecutors acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, but they were forced to defend this decision after the Swedes said they had not been consulted.
             
"The Crown Prosecution Service acts here as agents of the government seeking extradition, in this case the Swedish government," Britain's chief state prosecutor Keir Starmer told BBC radio Thursday.
             
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service added that it was common in extradition cases for British lawyers to take decisions on the course of action to be followed without consulting the country which issued the arrest warrant.

Date created : 2010-12-16

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