WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange kept in solitary as legal tug-of war continues
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was yesterday granted bail on a £200,000 cash surety but the 39-year-old Australian last night remained in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison after prosecutors appearing on behalf of the authorities in Sweden, where Mr Assange is wanted on sex allegations, decided to appeal against the ruling.
A hearing in the High Court in London is likely to take place in the next 48 hours. But campaigners hailed the decision to release Assange, accusing the Swedish authorities of bringing a politically motivated case, following the release of more than 250,000 American diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks and calling for the claims that he sexually assaulted two women to be dropped.
Mr Assange, who according to his British lawyers is already under investigation by a secretly empanelled grand jury in America charged with establishing whether he can be prosecuted over the leaked telegrams, was remanded in custody a week ago after a magistrate accepted arguments that he might flee the country if released.
During hectic proceedings, which saw Westminster Magistrates Court surrounded by several hundred placard-waving protesters, District Judge Howard Riddle conceded that concerns about Mr Assange's residency had been resolved, before imposing stringent conditions on his release, including a demand that he surrender his passport and wear an electronic tag while living on the 600-acre Suffolk estate of one of his key supporters, Vaughan Smith.
In addition, Mr Assange, who denies the Swedish allegations, and his supporters were ordered to provide £200,000 in cash along with £40,000 to be pledged as security. Mark Stephens, the solicitor representing Mr Assange, said his client was being held in “Orwellian” conditions in the south London prison, with only 30 minutes a day of free movement, and rigorous censorship of his mail and communications. Infrared photography was also being used to monitor his cell.
The court heard that Mr Assange, who kept out of the public eye and frequently changed his location after it became clear earlier this year that WikiLeaks was in possession of a vast quantity of US government material, was accused by Swedish prosecutors of having unprotected sex in August this year with a woman, Miss A, when she had insisted he use a condom. In a separate incident, he is alleged to have had unprotected sex with another woman, Miss W, while she was asleep.
Geoffrey Robertson QC, the human rights lawyer representing Mr Assange, told the court that the case had been thrown out by a senior prosecutor in Stockholm, who found the allegations did not amount to rape, only for the investigation to be reinstated in a different city following representations by a Swedish MP.
Mr Robertson said it was unclear whether the allegations against Mr Assange amounted to rape or an extraditable offence under British law.