Live Report: Assange Makes Bail But Still In JailPosted: December 15, 2010
[UPDATE: The Swedish prosecution team has chosen to appeal Assange’s release; Assange will remain in custody at Wandsworth Prison until a third hearing later this week.]
Confusion reigned outside a Westminster courtroom today as freedom of information campaigner Julian Assange was granted bail – but had to return to prison without speaking to supporters and the press.
The infamous WikiLeaks editor was jailed by a UK court last week, pending an extradition hearing that could see him transported to Sweden for questioning in a bizarre sex crimes investigation.
Swedish authorities in August issued a warrant for Assange’s arrest on charges of rape but said they had dropped the charges just hours later as there had been no official complaints.
But Swedish police issued a new arrest warrant last week, prompting UK police to arrest Assange on their behalf under the terms of a European Union extradition treaty.
He has still not been charged with any crime and Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens says Swedish authorities
rebuffed earlier offers to return for questioning voluntarily questioned Assange in August and gave permission for him to leave the country.
Assange’s terms of release include an electronic ankle tag, surrender of his passport to UK police –and a security deposit of GBP200,000 (NZD$419,000).
Assange remained in Wandsworth prison at the time of writing, but supporters have already deposited a total of 40,000 pounds with the court.
A cadre of celebrity supporters including heiress Jemima Khan and US filmmaker Michael Moore have also publicly offered to supply the money.
Assange’s unceremonious exit in the back of a prison van was an anticlimactic end to a long day for the hundreds of demonstrators and reporters gathered outside.
Protesters from Stop The War and Justice For Assange waved placards and chanted demands for Assange’s release, insisting the investigation was part of a smear campaign in retaliation to Wikileaks’ publication of classified documents.
Its releases this year alone include a massive trove of US diplomatic cables, video footage of US military massacring Iraqi civilians and the ‘War Logs’: a host of after-action reports and other classified documents which detail the grisly reality of the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the international media attention in Westminster seemed even greater than its interest in the leaks themselves.
Assange’s hearing was set for 2pm, but reporters began queuing for press passes as early as 8am; an hour later the line ran all the way out the door and around the block.
Court staff struggled to cope, handing out only 45 press passes and offering fewer than a dozen seats in the public gallery.
Staff even allowed some journalists to skip the line entirely in the belief they were covering other trials.
The dozens that remained were forced to wait in the corridor, relying only on surreptitious tweets from inside the courtroom.
But at least one journalist seemed satisfied by the day’s events: investigative journalist John Pilger, who came to Assange’s defence last week against what he called “outrageous” accusations.
Assange’s release was “wonderful” but should have happened a week ago, he said.
“It’s outrageous that he has been in solitary confinement: he’s banged up in a cell 23 hours a day in what is effectively a punishment block.
“This is a man who has committed no crime — he’s an innocent man until someone proves him otherwise – who has not even been charged with anything.”