Wikileaks' Julian Assange remains locked up until Swedish appeal

By Chris Greenwood,Pa
Tuesday 14 December 2010 19:32

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in custody tonight after Swedish prosecutors appealed against a decision to grant him bail.

The 39-year-old Australian is wanted in Sweden over claims he sexually assaulted two women.

At an extradition hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court this afternoon, a judge granted him conditional bail - only for him to be told two hours later that he must remain behind bars pending the appeal, which must be heard within the next 48 hours.

Speaking outside the court, solicitor Mark Stephens said: "Finally, after two hours we have heard that the Swedes will not abide with the umpire's decision and they want to put Mr Assange through yet more trouble, more expense and more hurdles.

"They clearly will not spare any expense to keep Mr Assange in jail. This is really turning into a show trial.

"We will be in court again in the next 48 hours. But they have not given us the courtesy of telling us when we will be in court."

Asked how Assange reacted to the news, Mr Stephens added: "He is phlegmatic."

Assange was first remanded in custody a week ago but his legal team made a successful appeal against the decision today, with several well-known backers again offering thousands of pounds in sureties.

District Judge Howard Riddle granted him bail on condition he provide a security of £200,000 to the court and guarantee two sureties, each of £20,000.

He told him his passport would have to remain with the police, he could not apply for international travel, must abide by a curfew and stay at Ellingham Hall near Bungay in Suffolk, a 10-bedroom estate surrounded by 600 acres of grounds.

The estate is owned by Captain Vaughan Smith, who served in the British Army before setting up the Frontline Club in Paddington, London, in 2003.

Cpt Smith said: "I have met Mr Assange very frequently over the last five months or so.

"The Julian Assange I know has a number of qualities: he's a very honourable person, hugely courageous, self-deprecatory - none of the things you read about."

Assange, who appeared in the dock in a black suit and white shirt, was also told he would be tagged and must report to a local police station every evening.

He waved to his lawyer as he entered the packed court room and spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address in Victoria, Australia.

On hearing later that he must await the prosecution's appeal in prison, he said: "I understand."

Lawyer Gemma Lindfield, on behalf of the Swedish authorities, reminded the court during the hearing it had "already found that Mr Assange is a flight risk".

She said: "It's submitted that nothing has changed since last week to allay the court's fears in this regard."

But Judge Riddle disagreed, saying that two matters had changed since he made his decision to remand Assange in custody last Tuesday.

Firstly, the former hacker's address had not been verified by the police when he appeared in the dock last week, whereas the matter of his residence had "now been dealt with completely and entirely to my satisfaction", he said.

Secondly, a question mark hung last week over his entry into the country, with Ms Lindfield saying there was no trace of him coming into the UK.

But the judge said this matter had also been cleared up now and no longer troubled him.