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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gets bail

A UK court has granted bail to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been in custody in London after surrendering to authorities over an arrest warrant issued by Sweden. The judge set Assange’s bail at £200,000 (about US$316,000) cash and set several conditions on Assange’s bail release, including that Assange must turn over his passport, reside at a registered address, wear an electronic tracking tag, observe two four-hour curfews each day, and report to police every evening.

However, prosecutors have announced they will appeal the bail decision, and Assange will remain in custody until the appeal is heard. Prosecutors gave no reason for seeking the appeal, which will be heard within 48 hours.

Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens noted to reporters it was a pity Assange couldn’t turn to MasterCard or Visa to assist with raising funds for bail. MasterCard and Visa have denied services to Wikileaks, which in turn subjected them to denial-of-service attacks last week from “Operation: Payback,” a group of cyber-activists supporting Wikileaks.

If bail is granted, Assange will be held until he can pay the bail to the court. The next hearing in the case is January 11, 2011.

Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine) says he has put up $20,000 towards Assange’s bail. “For those of you who think it’s wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he’s being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey.”

A lawyer acting on behalf of Swedish authorities asked that Assange be denied bail on the grounds that the charges facing him in Sweden were serious, plus Assange had relatively weak ties to Britain and the means to leave the country.

Assange has been in a London prison for a week on a warrant from Sweden on sex crimes alleged by two women in Sweden. The arrest warrant was issued to bring Assange in for questioning; no charges have been filed against him as yet. Assange has denied the charges and his lawyer has indicated Assange plans to fight extradition to Sweden.

[Updated with notice prosecutors are appealing bail ruling.]

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