Court rejects bail appeal, frees Assange

December 16, 2010 12:00 am

, LONDON, Dec 16 – The founder of the WikiLeaks website Julian Assange was granted bail on Thursday by the High Court in London, which rejected an appeal against him being released even under stringent conditions.

"I am going to grant conditional bail," judge Duncan Ouseley told the 39-year-old Australian.

The judge threw out the appeal against a lower court’s decision earlier this week to release Assange on bail pending moves to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

He said he did not believe there was a risk that Assange would try to flee the country.

"The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution," the judge said.

Assange will now be required to stay at the 600-acre (240-hectare) country estate of supporter Vaughan Smith, a former soldier who founded the Frontline Club, a media club in London where WikiLeaks has based part of its operation.

His supporters have helped to put up bail totalling 240,000 pounds (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar). Assange will also have to wear a security tag.

The judge made a small adjustment to the bail conditions set out on Tuesday, involving the times Assange must report to police near the mansion in Suffolk, eastern England.

A small group of Assange’s supporters braving the driving rain outside the court roared with delight at the news of the ruling and shouted: "Exposing war crimes is no crime."

Assange’s supporters say the allegations are politically motivated because WikiLeaks has enraged Washington by releasing US diplomatic cables and classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The appeal had been lodged by British prosecutors acting for Sweden, but not on a direct request from Stockholm, Britain’s top state prosecutor said earlier Thursday.


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