LONDON: London’s High Court upheld a decision on Thursday to grant bail to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden over allegations of sex crimes.
Assange, the target of U.S. fury over WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables, is fighting attempts to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct made by two female WikiLeaks volunteers.
He denies the allegations. High Court Justice Duncan Ouseley ruled that the 39-year-old Australian could be granted bail of 200,000 pounds ($317,000) bail and made slight changes to several of the other strict conditions set by a lower court judge on Tuesday.
"He clearly does have some desire to clear his name because if he were not to do so, the allegations would always be hanging over him," Ouseley said.
British prosecutors had gone to the High Court to appeal against the lower court’s decision to grant bail.
Assange was pictured giving a defiant victory sign as he arrived at court for Thursday’s hearing in the back of a police van while a mass of reporters waited outside in the rain.
It was not immediately clear whether Assange would walk free on bail on Thursday. But Mark Stephens, a lawyer for Assange, said before the hearing began that the 200,000 pound cash bond needed should be available later on Thursday after being raised by supporters.
Other bail conditions stipulate that Assange must stay at a country house in eastern England owned by a supporter, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag.
The prosecution had argued against bail, saying Assange was a "significant flight risk" and that no conditions set by the court could prevent him absconding.
There was some confusion over whether Britain or Sweden was behind the bid to deny him bail. A spokeswoman for Sweden’s prosecution authority said the case was in British hands.
Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions told BBC radio they had been acting as the agents for the Swedish government but declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
A full extradition hearing is expected in early February. Assange and his lawyers have voiced fears that U.S. prosecutors might be preparing to indict him for espionage over WikiLeaks’ publication of the documents.(Reuters)