Assange back in court as bail hangs in balance

Julian Assange will emerge from solitary confinement at Wandsworth prison this morning to attend the next stage of a legal process which could eventually lead to him being extradited to the United States on espionage charges. The founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks hopes his legal team can belatedly secure him bail at the High Court before it is decided whether to extradite him to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

On Tuesday Mr Assange, 39, thought he had secured his freedom from jail after supporters – including the socialite Jemima Khan, journalist John Pilger and film director Ken Loach – offered a security of £200,000. But the Australian was detained again two hours later when an appeal was lodged against the decision of Westminster magistrates to grant him bail.

The appeal is scheduled to start at the High Court at 11.30am today. It had previously been thought that it was being brought by the Swedish authorities, but last night it emerged that it is the Crown Prosecution Service that is attempting to keep Mr Assange in custody. A spokesperson for the CPS said: "In extradition cases, decisions on bail issues are always taken by the domestic prosecuting authority. It would not be practical for prosecutors in a foreign jurisdiction to make such decisions."

Mr Assange denies the sex assault claims and opposes his removal to Sweden. One pressing problem for his legal team has been the collection of the cash sum required as surety.

One of Mr Assange's lawyers, Mark Stephens, said yesterday: "We have to come up with £200,000 in pound notes and that is difficult to come by. We've got about half of that right now but of course people will understand that even wealthy people don't keep that kind of money knocking around."

Should Mr Assange's lawyers prove successful in court, he will become a temporary guest of the journalist Vaughan Smith at his Suffolk manor house, Ellingham Hall. A significant security operation would be mounted to protect Mr Assange from vigilantes.

As the fallout surrounding the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of US diplomatic messages continued, British police confirmed they were investigating online attacks by hackers seeking to exact revenge on companies that withdrew support for the website. The campaign by Anonymous has shut down the websites for Visa and MasterCard. There is speculation that a renewed attack on the internet retailer Amazon could take place soon.

Web passwords warning

Millions of internet users are being asked to change their passwords by websites worried about the knock-on effects of the hacking of thousands of accounts at Gawker. Yahoo!, as well as professional networking site LinkedIn, Twitter and the online game World of Warcraft are worried that their sites could become vulnerable to hacking because users who were caught up in the Gawker security breach might have similar passwords across accounts. The warning comes as a man claiming to represent Anonymous, another group of 'hacktivists' who support WikiLeaks claimed its hacking software has been downloaded 300,000 times and that the size of its network was "staggering".

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