ASSANGE GRANTED BAIL BY BRITISH JUDGE / SWEDEN APPEALS BAIL RULING


[IMAGE CAPTURE of  JULIAN ASSANGE IN THE DATING okCUPID? PROFILE. COURTESY OF TIME NEWSFEED]

LONDON, DECEMBER 15, 2010 (MSNBC) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in Britain on Swedish allegations of sex crimes, was granted bail Thursday by a British judge.

Assange appeared in a packed central London courtroom on Tuesday to fight his extradition to Sweden in a sex-crimes investigation.

Assange supporters rallied in an effort to prove to the judge that the controversial activist would not flee the U.K. if granted bail.

Vaughn Smith, the director of the Frontline Club journalism organization which had been housing Assange before his arrest, offered the court assurances that the WikiLeaks founder could stay at his 10-bedroom estate, which he said is within one mile of a police station, NBC News' Peter Alexander tweeted from the courtroom.

Smith and others also offered to put up money for bail, and Assange's attorney Geoffrey Robertson said authorities could place an electronic tag on his client for tracking purposes, other reporters posting to Twitter from inside the courtroom said.

Assange, wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, appeared more ashen that he did at this last appearance, the reporters said.

The 39-year-old Australian was ordered to prison by a judge at a hearing Dec. 7 after surrendering himself to Scotland Yard to answer a Swedish arrest warrant.

Assange is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer. Lawyers for Assange say he denies the allegations and will contest the attempt to extradite him for questioning.

The disclosures, which have continued unaffected since Assange was detained in prison, have offended some U.S. allies and angered its rivals. Officials in Washington claim some other countries have already curtailed their dealings with the U.S. government as a result.

Earlier, Assange spoke from his prison cell to defend himself and attack the financial companies that suspended payments to his controversial website, Australian television reported Tuesday.

Assange told his mother that he remained committed to publishing some 250,000 pages of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, despite condemnation from Washington and elsewhere.

Australia's Network Seven asked Christine Assange to ask her son one question during a visit to his London jail: Was it worth it?

"My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them," said Assange, according to his mother who supplied the network with a written statement of her son's answer.

"If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

'Illegal and immoral attacks'In his statement from jail, Assange was also critical of the major finance companies who suspended payments to his WikiLeaks site, saying, "We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It's not something we knew before."

"I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks," he said.

Some of Assange's supporters suspect the extradition request has been motivated by WikiLeaks' decision last month to begin publishing its trove of the secret U.S. diplomatic cables, something Swedish officials have denied.

The U.S. Justice Department has been looking into a range of criminal charges, including violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, that could be filed in the WikiLeaks case.

Assange and his lawyers have voiced fears that U.S. prosecutors may be preparing to indict him for espionage after WikiLeaks' publication of the cables.

Swedish charges

At an hour-long court hearing last week, lawyer Gemma Lindfield — acting for Swedish police — said Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

She told the court one woman had accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom during an encounter on Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way "designed to violate her sexual integrity" several days later.

A second woman has accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

In Sweden, a person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person can be convicted of rape and sentenced to up to six years in prison.

Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, claims the courts are stacked against defendants in sex cases in Sweden.

Lawyers for Assange said they will make a new application Tuesday to have him freed on bail, and will offer to post a hefty bond with the court.

Extradition proceedings

At last week's court hearing in London, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said there were "substantial grounds" to believe Assange could abscond if granted bail.

Australian journalist John Pilger, British film director Ken Loach and Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, all offered to put up sureties to persuade the court Assange would not flee.

A decision on whether to extradite Assange is expected to take several weeks. Both Assange and the Swedish government are entitled to appeal against the ruling if the judge rules against them.

Britain's government said Monday that the country's national security adviser believes government websites could be attacked in retribution if Assange is not released.

Government departments have been told they could be targeted by online "hacktivists," following attacks on companies including MasterCard Inc., Visa Inc. and PayPal Inc., which cut ties to the WikiLeaks site.

Internet activists launched "Operation Payback" to avenge WikiLeaks against those perceived to have obstructed its operations. They temporarily brought down the websites of credit card firms Visa and MasterCard, as well as that of the Swedish government, last week.

Christine Assange told her son there was worldwide support for him.

"I told him how people from all over the world, all sorts of countries were standing up with placards and screaming out for his freedom and justice and he was very heartened by that," she said. "As a mother I am asking the world to stand up for my brave son."

Sweden challenges British bail ruling, appeals

[PHOTO - Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is pictured through the heavily tinted windows of a police vehicle as he arrives at Westminster magistrates court in London, on December 14, 2010. Julian Assange blasted Visa, MasterCard and PayPal Tuesday for blocking donations to his website, in a defiant statement from behind bars ahead of a fresh court appearance in London]

LONDON — A British judge ordered Julian Assange released on 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail Tuesday, but the WikiLeaks founder will remain in custody for at least two more days after Swedish prosecutors challenged that decision.

Assange has spent a week in a U.K. jail following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing but has refused to voluntarily surrender to Sweden's request to extradite him for questioning — arguing that he could be questioned from Britain.

In a day of courtroom drama, the 39-year-old Australian was first told by a judge that he would be freed, then less than two hours later was informed he had at least another 48 hours in custody.

Britain's High Court will hear the Swedish appeal, but it wasn't clear exactly when.

"They clearly will not spare any expense to keep Mr. Assange in jail," his lawyer Mark Stephens told journalists outside the entrance to the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. "This is really turning into a show trial."

Lawyer Gemma Lindfield, acting for Sweden, had asked the court to deny Assange bail, arguing Tuesday that the allegations against him were serious, that he had only weak ties to Britain and that he had "the means and ability to abscond."

Reminding the court that it had already labeled Assange "a flight risk," she argued that "nothing has changed since last week to allay the court's fears in this regard."

She also rejected attempts to link Assange's case with the work of WikiLeaks — which last month deeply angered U.S. officials by beginning to publish its trove of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

"This is not a case about WikiLeaks, rather a case about alleged serious offenses against two women," Lindfield told the court Tuesday.

Celebrity supporters in the court — including socialite Jemima Khan and actress Bianca Jagger — and hundreds of pro-WikiLeaks protesters outside the building cheered at District Judge Howard Riddle's decision to grant Assange bail.

Under the ruling, Assange must wear an electronic tag, stay at a specific address in southern England, report to police every evening and observe two four-hour curfews each day in addition to putting up the bond.

Assange's mother Christine, who was flown to Britain by Australian media outlets, watched the hearing nervously from the public gallery, but gave a huge smile as the judge announced his decision.

"I just want to thank everyone who's turned up to show their support and who's taken an interest," Christine Assange said.

A number of international figures put up a total of 240,000 pounds ($380,000) as a guarantee. The supporters had offered to post bond to help secure Assange's release, his lawyer, high-profile human rights advocate Geoffrey Robertson, told the court during the hearing.

Sweden investigation Assange, wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, appeared more ashen that he did at this last appearance, reporters posting to Twitter from inside the courtroom said. Seated and unshackled, he listened intently from a glassed-in defendant's box, NBC News' Alexander tweeted.

Assange is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer. Lawyers for Assange say he denies the allegations and will contest Sweden's attempt to extradite him.

Riddle had initially ordered Assange to prison at a Dec. 7 hearing conducted after he turned himself in.

The WikiLeaks disclosures, which have continued unaffected since Assange was detained in prison, have offended some U.S. allies and angered its rivals. Officials in Washington claim some other countries have already curtailed their dealings with the U.S. government as a result.

'My convictions are unfaltering'

Earlier, Assange spoke from his prison cell to defend himself and attack the financial companies that suspended payments to his controversial website, Australian television reported Tuesday.

Assange told his mother that he remained committed to publishing some 250,000 pages of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, despite condemnation from Washington and elsewhere.

"My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them," said Assange, according to his mother who supplied the network with a written statement of her son's answer.

"If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

'Illegal and immoral attacks'

In his statement from jail, Assange was also critical of the major finance companies who suspended payments to his WikiLeaks site, saying, "We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It's not something we knew before."

"I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks," he said.

Swedish charges

At an hour-long court hearing last week, Lindfield said Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

She told the court one woman had accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom during an encounter on Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way "designed to violate her sexual integrity" several days later.

A second woman has accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

In Sweden, a person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person can be convicted of rape and sentenced to up to six years in prison.

FROM EPOCH TIMES

Michael Moore Offers Julian Assange BailBy Daniel Granger Epoch Times Staff Created: Dec 15, 2010 Last Updated: Dec 15, 2010 . Facebook Digg StumbleUpon Twitter | |

Michael Moore has pledged $20,000 to help Wikileaks founder Julian Assange post bail.

Michael Moore, the American filmmaker, said on his official website on Tuesday that he has offered $20,000 to Julian Assange to help him post bail.

Assange is still being held in London after Swedish authorities appealed his bail grant of £200,000 (US$313,000) in court today. The High Court will reconvene by Thursday with a more senior judge to decide whether to overturn the bail decision.

Activist filmmaker Moore saw Assange's arrest as a great injustice. He said "Openness, transparency - these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt... and that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done."

Moore also says that he is offering his website, servers, domain names and anything else he could "do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving".

Assange will be represented by high profile human rights lawyer and former U.N. appeals judge, Geoffrey Robertson. (about him below)

Other high-profile supporters as listed by the Daily Mail include socialite Jemima Khan, novelist Tariq Ali, campaigner Bianca Jagger and film-makers Ken Loach and John Pilger.

Mark Stephens, Assange’s British lawyer, told Sky News today that half of the bail has already been collected. It has to be collected in cash due to WikiLeaks’ continuing dispute with PayPal, Mastercard and Visa.

Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C.

Geoffrey Robertson QC has been counsel in many landmark cases in constitutional, criminal and media law in the courts of Britain and the commonwealth and he makes frequent appearances in the Privy Council and the European Court of Human Rights. His recent cases include: appearing for the Wall Street Journal in Jameel v WSJ, the landmark House of Lords decision which extended a public interest defence for the media in libel actions; representing Tasmanian aborigines in the novel action which stopped the Natural History Museum from experimenting on the remains of their ancestors; defending the Chief Justice of Trinidad at impeachment proceedings; arguing the Court of Appeal case (R v F) which first defined “terrorism” for the purpose of British law; arguing for the right of the public to see royal wills and representing a trust for the education of poor children in litigation in Anguilla over a billion dollar bequest.

He has maintained a wide advisory practice and has served part-time as a UN appeal judge at its war crimes court in Sierra Leone. In 2008 the UN Secretary General appointed him as one of the three distinguished jurist members of the UN’s Internal Justice Council.

Mr Robertson is the author of Crimes against Humanity – The Struggle for Global Justice, published by Penguin and the New Press (USA), now in its third edition; of a memoir, The Justice Game (Vintage), which has sold over 100,000 copies, and of Robertson and Nicol on Media Law (Sweet & Maxwell). He writes and broadcasts regularly on international legal issues and creates Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals for television and for ethics education.

His most recent publication is The Tyrannicide Brief, the story of how Cromwell’s lawyers produced the first trial of a Head of State – that of Charles I. It traces the memorable career of John Cooke, the radical barrister and visionary social reformer who had the courage and intellect to devise a way to end the impunity of sovereigns. The book is published by Chatto & Windus in the UK, after Australia (where it rose to second in the non-fiction bestseller list) and is published by Anchor Books in the U.S., where it won a “Silver Gavel” Award from the American Bar Association.

Mr Robertson has written an extensive introduction to Geoffrey Robertson presents The Levellers – The Putney Debates (Verso,2007); the foreword to Torture (Human Rights Watch/ Macmillan) and A Question of Zion (Professor Jacqueline Rose/ Melbourne University Press) and is a contributor to Human Rights in the War on Terror (Cambridge University Press).

His paper Ending Impunity: How International Criminal Law Can Put Tyrants on Trial has been published in the 2005 Cornell Law Journal (issue 3, Volume 38). In 2006 he chaired a Commission of Inquiry into the United Nation’s internal justice system. A copy is available on this website: see “Recent Articles”.

Geoffrey Robertson is founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers, the UK’s leading human rights practice, which comprises some 80 barristers and 30 staff. He is a Bencher of the Middle Temple; and a Recorder (part-time judge) in London; an executive Member of Justice, and a trustee of the Capital Cases Trust. He is visiting Professor in Human Rights at Queen Mary College, University of London. He lives in London with his wife, author Kathy Lette, and their two children. (From Mr. Robertson's website)


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