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Americas

WikiLeaks founder Assange is released on bail

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-12-17

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was set free on bail Thursday after a London judge ruled that he be conditionally released. Assange has vowed to continue his work despite facing extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.

AFP - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed to clear his name of allegations of sexual assault and pursue his work with the whistleblowing website after he was freed on bail by a London court Thursday.

"I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it -- which we have not yet -- the evidence from these allegations," Assange said on the steps of the High Court where he was greeted by a media scrum.

Assange and his lawyers insist that moves to extradite him from Britain to Sweden to face questioning over allegations he sexually assaulted two women are politically motivated.

Amid a hail of camera flashes, Assange thanked "all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away."

The 39-year-old Australian said that by granting him bail and releasing him after nine days in London's Wandsworth prison, the British justice system had proved that "if justice is not always the outcome at least it is not dead yet".

The man whose website has rocked Washington by releasing thousands of classified US diplomatic cables said his time in solitary confinement in the prison had helped him mull over the plight of detainees around the world.

"Those people also need your attention and support," he said, as a handful of delighted supporters chanted "Julian, Julian, out, out, out."


His release had been delayed by several hours, apparently by haggling over the availability of the 240,000-pound (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar) surety which has been put up by supporters including film director Michael Moore.

A senior judge had earlier rejected an appeal by lawyers working on behalf of Sweden to keep him in jail pending extradition.

As a condition of his release, Assange will swap the stark surroundings of prison for a friend's country mansion in Suffolk, eastern England.

He will have to report regularly to police, wear a security tag and will be under a curfew. The extradition hearings will resume next year.

Assange's mother, Christine, and supporters including campaigning journalist John Pilger, had earlier packed into the courtroom for the hour-and-a-half hearing along with hordes of journalists.

"I'm very, very happy with the decision. I can't wait to see my son and to hold him close," Christine Assange said.

Assange, a 39-year-old former computer hacker, was in court to hear the senior judge reject an appeal against a ruling Tuesday by a lower court that he be bailed.

The appeal was lodged by British lawyers on behalf of Swedish prosecutors.

Judge Duncan Ouseley rejected the prosecution's argument that Assange was a flight risk, saying: "The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution."

In arguing the accusations are unfounded, Assange's supporters cite the timing of his arrest, which coincided with the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.

Hailing the judge's decision, Pilger said it was "good news but it's overdue" and suggested the wider issue was whether the United States would also eventually seek Assange's extradition.

"I think we should be looking in the long distance to the threat not just of extradition to Sweden but also of extradition to the US. That is the great unspoken issue in this court," Pilger told journalists.

Stephens said the potential for US legal action had not yet been "addressed".

Assange will now have to reside at Ellingham Hall, a mansion on the 600-acre country estate of Vaughan Smith, an ex-British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, the media club in London that is the British base of WikiLeaks' operations.

Assange will stay there during the ongoing extradition proceedings, which may take months.

Meanwhile WikiLeaks released new cables Thursday, with Thailand's revered royal family again at the centre of the revelations.

A memo from the US embassy in Bangkok showed top palace officials expressed concern about the prospect of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn becoming king.

Another leaked cable revealed that an oil platform in Azerbaijan operated by BP suffered a blowout and a huge gas leak around 18 months before the Gulf of Mexico spill.
 

Date created : 2010-12-16

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