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Dec 14 2010

UPDATED: WikiLeaks Founder Assange Granted Bail By British Court

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in Britain on Swedish allegations of sex crimes, was conditionally granted bail by a British court today, an article by Reuters says this morning. The article notes that “Judge Howard Riddle, who had earlier granted Assange bail under stringent conditions, said Assange must remain in custody until the appeal is heard within 48 hours.”

Riddle, who last week said that Swedish authorities would need to show some convincing evidence if they wanted to oppose bail for the 39-year-old Australian when he appears in court to oppose extradition to Sweden, today granted Assange bail with conditions until another hearing on January 11.

Mr Assange had been refused bail Wednesday December 08, 2010 and sent to Wandsworth prison when he appeared before Judge Riddle to answer a Swedish extradition application.

The Brisbane Times reports that “Mr Assange, 39, won his temporary freedom after his lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, gave Judge Howard Riddle a temporary address where the WikiLeaks founder would stay and agreed to post a guarantee of £200,000 ($US315,280).”

…Mr Assange had not been given any of his mail, including legal letters, since he was jailed.

He was on 23½-hours-a-day ”lock-down” at Wandsworth. He was kept under surveillance on infrared video.

Ahead of his court appearance, Mr Assange blasted Visa, MasterCard and PayPal for blocking donations to his website.

In a defiant statement from behind bars, he claimed the firms were “instruments of US foreign policy” but vowed their actions would not stop the whistle-blowing website from continuing to publish thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.

Last week, in the wake of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal shutting down donations processing for WikiLeaks, the organizations credit card processor DataCell ehf of Iceland announced its intention to sue Visa and Mastercard, with DataCell CEO Andreas Fink stating that the company “has decided to take up immediate legal actions to make donations possible again,”  and that “The suspension of payments towards Wikileaks is a violation of the agreements with their customers.”

Visa should “just simply do their business where they are good at – transferring money,” Fink wrote.

Neither of the credit card companies have commented on the pending lawsuit.

Xipwire, Inc. of Philadelphia announced on Tuesday December 07 that it would act as an intermediary for WikiLeaks after the world’s largest credit card providers halted all electronic donations to the non-profit media outlet. Xipline accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and bank debit cards, and has since stated in their website that “We have officially been contacted by WikiLeaks and will be forwarding all donations to them directly”.

Stephen Webster writing at RawStory also notes this morning that “Though granted bail, Assange may not actually be freed on Tuesday, as it was already late afternoon when the ruling came down and prosecutors had time to appeal the decision. One of his supporters, Sarah Saunders, offered the court £150,000 — or “pretty much all I’m worth,” according to a reporter on the scene — to ensure Assange did not flee. — Bail was set at 200,000 pounds. Once the decision was announced, the courtroom erupted with cheers, according to The Guardian. The court required that Assange surrender his passport, submit to a curfew and wear a tracking device.”

Earlier this morning filmmaker Michael Moore had issued an announcement stating that “Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail. Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.”

The UK Independent reported this morning ahead of Mr. Assange’s bail hearing that:

Whitehall is preparing for a crippling attack on government websites as evidence mounts that the backlash against the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is rapidly growing into a mass movement that aims to cause widespread disruption on the internet.

Extra security measures have been added to a host of government web services, in particular those used to claim benefits or provide tax information, after Sir Peter Ricketts, the national security adviser, warned permanent secretaries across all departments that “hacktivists” who last week targeted the sites of companies such as MasterCard and PayPal could switch their focus to Britain.

Downing Street officials confirmed they are preparing for a court appearance today by Mr Assange, who remains in custody following his arrest on sex allegations at the request of the Swedish authorities, to be used by hackers as an excuse to switch their focus to key cyber infrastructure such as the website of HM Revenue and Customs. Members of the online collective Anonymous have already signalled their willingness to attack UK targets if Mr Assange – who denies the claims and whose lawyers will today apply for bail – is extradited to Sweden.

WikiLeaks has said that it is in no way connected to “Anonymous,” but added that they neither approve nor disapprove of their actions.

UPDATES – 2:00PM PST:

From David Edwards and Stephen Webster at RawStory:

Update: Swedish authorities will appeal decision

Swedish prosecutors will appeal a British decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange bail, according to updates from sources outside the courtroom.

“This is really turning in to a show trial,” his attorney told reporters. “We will be in court in the next 48 hours, they haven’t given us the courtesy to say when. It is an unfortunate state of affairs, but given their history of persecuting of Mr Assange, it is perhaps not surprising.”

Assange will remain in custody until there’s a ruling on the appeal.

From RT:

The WikiLeaks founder has been granted bail by a British court – but with strict conditions. Assange will stay in jail until another hearing in the next two days, as Swedish prosecutors are appealing the bail decision. Stockholm wants to extradite Assange to answer questions over sexual assault allegations, which he denies. The WikiLeaks site is still operating and continues to publish confidential American diplomatic cables.



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