Assange bail appeal to be heard tomorrow

Sweden`s appeal against the bail granted to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape charges will be heard in the High Court.

Last Updated: Dec 15, 2010, 21:06 PM IST

London: Sweden`s appeal against the bail
granted to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape charges
will be heard in the High Court here tomorrow, even as his
lawyers complained that the prison authorities were making it
difficult for them to meet him for preparing his legal case.

39-year-old Assange, an Australian national who is wanted
in Sweden for alleged sex offences, was granted bail at a
court hearing yesterday after his supporters agreed to post a
200,000-pound cash deposit.

However, he was later told that he would remain behind
bars after Swedish authorities said they would appeal against
the bail before the full extradition hearing begins next year.

The appeal was lodged after District Judge Howard Riddle
told Assange he could be released from Wandsworth Prison in
southwest London on the condition that he will have to reside
at the agreed address of a former British army officer.

Captain Vaughan Smith, founder of the journalists`
Frontline Club, offered to house Assange at his estate in
Suffolk.

But, he admitted after the hearing at City of Westminster
Magistrates` Court that harbouring the former hacker could put
his own safety at risk.

As a condition of his bail, the Wikileaks founder must
live at the home of Smith.

Smith told BBC Radio: "I`ve obviously taken a very public
position to say I support him as an individual - that`s not to
say that I agree with everything that is being leaked.

"But certainly, as a person, I think it`s very important
he receives proper justice and I`m very pleased he was given
bail yesterday."

Smith said Assange was "very committed and courageous",
but had been portrayed by some as "a Machiavellian, cold,
string-puller".

"I think we have to find a tolerant way of dealing with
people even if we don`t agree with them," he said, adding that
the response of the Swedish authorities "looks like
vengeance".

Meanwhile, Assange`s lawyer Mark Stephens said half of
the cash required by the court for Assange`s bail had been
collected and dismissed suggestions that the WikiLeaks founder
would try to flee the country if released on bail.

"The suggestion that he is a flight risk is faintly
ludicrous," he told BBC television.

As per the bail condition, Assange will have to wear an
electronic tag that would allow British authorities to locate
him all the time, the lawyer said.

But, he complained that the prison officials were
increasingly making it difficult for lawyers to meet Assange
and prepare his legal case.

"I can`t get access to him," he said. "I will not be able
to take instructions from him."

The 39-year-old Australian, who was accused of sexual
misconduct by two women in Sweden, is resisting an extradition
claim by the country.

As part of the bail conditions, Assange must also
surrender his passport. A number of high-profile individuals
including Mick Jagger and Jemima Khan are willing stand
guarantee for Assange.

Assange, who has earned the wrath of the US for
leaking a huge cache of secret diplomatic documents, has been
imprisoned for a week now after he gave himself up to Scotland
Yard here.

Assange is accused of having unprotected sex with a
woman, identified only as Miss A, when she insisted he use a
condom. He is also accused of having unprotected sex with
another woman, Miss W, while she was asleep.

Assange denies sexually assaulting the two women in
Sweden and claims the charges are politically-motivated.

In recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a series of
US diplomatic cables revealing secret information on topics
such as terrorism and international relations.

Assange was refused bail last week despite the offer
of sureties from figures including film director Ken Loach,
journalist John Pilger and Jemima Khan, ex-wife of Pakistan
cricketer Imran Khan.

In his first appearance at court last week, District
Judge Howard Riddle refused Assange bail on grounds that he
could flee.

PTI