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UK court upholds bail with conditions for WikiLeaks’ Assange

A UK judge has upheld a lower court’s decision to grant bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, providing he comes up with £200,000 in cash (about US$312,000) as a surety and agrees to strict bail conditions, including surrendering his passport and submitting to electronic monitoring. A UK court had granted Assange bail earlier this week but British prosecutors—reportedly acting without consulting Swedish authorities—appealed the bail decision, meaning Assange remained in prison until the appeal was resolved. Rather than denying bail and continuing to hold Assange, Justice Duncan Ouseley upheld the bail terms specified by the lower court, noting that the manner in which the case has been handed by Swedish prosecutors gives Assange some basis to believe he would be acquitted, should the case ever go to trial.

Although Assange is a high-profile figure in world media for his role with WikiLeaks, a Web site that has been publishing contents of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables and other materials relates to U.S. foreign policy and the was in Afghanistan, Swedish authorities aren’t after Assange for his work with WikiLeaks. Instead, Sweden has issued a warrant for Assange to question him over allegations of sexual misconduct made by two women in Sweden. Assange has not been charged, and has denied the allegations. Assange’s lawyers have also indicated Assange plans to fight extradition to Sweden.

As a condition of his bail, Assange will be required to live at Ellingham Hall, a country farm and manse in eastern England owned by Vaughn Smith, a former captain in the Grenadier Guards, free speech advocate, and supporter of Assange. A good deal of Assange’s bail money is reportedly being donated by supporters, including American documentary filmmaker Michael Moore; Assange’s lawyer indicated sufficient bail money had come through and Assange should be free in relatively short order.

WikiLeaks’ disclosures have provoked outrage and anger in the U.S. government, whlie U.S. officials have at the same time tried to downplay the significance of the leaked information and smooth ruffled feathers with diplomatic and strategic allies. Many have assumed that Sweden is merely acting as a proxy for the United States, leveling potentially sordid accusations at Assange (without charging him) in a move to damage his credibility—as well as keep the perpetual traveler locked up. Assange and his lawyers have speculated that the United States is attempting to work out a way to indict Assange on espionage charges for publishing confidential documents.

Assange’s lawyer noted that the Wandsworth prison cell where Assange has spent more than a week was once occupied in the 1980s by Oscar Wilde, who was convicted of gross indecency.

[Wandsworth Prison image: Derek Harper]

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