WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he would continue his work and “protest my innocence” after being released from a London prison on bail today.
“During my time in a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me,” Assange, 39, said outside the High Court in London today, while thanking supporters who helped him post bail. “Those people also need your attention and support.”
Assange has been in jail since Dec. 7, when the Australian turned himself in to U.K. police after Swedish authorities issued a European arrest warrant. Assange is wanted for questioning over claims of rape and molestation in Sweden.
A court ruling today upheld a Dec. 14 decision to free Assange that U.K. prosecutors had appealed. Assange’s lawyer has suggested the Swedish case is politically motivated by WikiLeaks actions. WikiLeaks has drawn condemnation for posting thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic communications and U.S. military documents, including a video of a July 2007 helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a Reuters television cameraman and his driver.
Electronic Tag, Curfew
Assange was released after being ordered to post bail of 200,000 pounds ($311,800), turn in his passport, wear an electronic tag and observe an overnight curfew at a friend’s home. At least nine of Assange’s friends and supporters agreed to offer a total of 75,000 pounds of additional guarantees for the bail, bringing the total commitment to 275,000 pounds.
The bail ruling “is common in extradition cases involving foreign nationals,” said Michael O’Kane, a fraud and regulatory lawyer with Peters & Peters in London, who isn’t involved in the case. “The publicity attaching to this case is also likely to have helped Mr. Assange, as it would make fleeing the U.K. extremely difficult.”
Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said earlier today that the U.K.’s appeal of bail was evidence of the “continuing vendetta on the part of the Swedes against Assange.” Stephens regularly represents media organizations, including Bloomberg News.
“If justice is not always an outcome, at least it’s not dead yet,” Assange told reporters.
After his release, Assange will stay at the Suffolk home in eastern England of Vaughan Smith, a friend who runs a club for journalists. Celebrities that offered to provide financial guarantees that he wouldn’t jump bail included Bianca Jagger, the former wife of Mick Jagger, and John Pilger, a documentary film maker.
The arrest warrant was sought by Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny, who started her investigation on Sept. 1 after a Stockholm-based prosecutor dropped the rape charge and reduced the molestation charges. A lawyer for the two alleged victims appealed that decision.
The Swedish warrant covers one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape.
Stephens has said his client has tried repeatedly to meet with the Swedish prosecutor when he was in Sweden and that she hasn’t directly provided evidence against him, such as text messages between the two alleged victims.
Stephens said the Swedish case may be politically motivated due to the WikiLeaks disclosures. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Nov. 29 that the Justice Department is investigating the leaks.
Created in 2006, WikiLeaks receives confidential material and posts it online “so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth,” according to its website.
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