WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Refused Bail By Court


WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has angered U.S. authorities by publishing  secret diplomatic cables, was remanded in custody by a British court on Tuesday over  allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

He has spent some time in Sweden and was accused this year of sexual misconduct by  two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. A Swedish prosecutor wants to question him  about the accusation.

WikiLeaks, which has provoked fury in Washington with its publications, vowed it  would continue making public details of the 250,000 secret U.S. documents it had  obtained.

U.S. Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, welcomed news of the arrest. “I hadn’t heard  that but it sounds like good news to me,” Gates told reporters during a trip to  Afghanistan.

At a court hearing in London, Senior District Judge Howard Riddle said: “There are  substantial grounds to believe he could abscond if granted bail.”

He said the allegations were serious, and that Assange had comparatively weak  community ties in Britain.

His British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters a renewed bail application would  be made, and that his client was “fine.”

“We are entitled to appeal to a higher court, to the High Court, and we are also  entitled to go again in the magistrates court at another date,” he told reporters.  He said many people believed the prosecution was politically motivated, and that he  would be “released and vindicated.”

But a Swedish prosecutor was cited in newspaper Aftonbladet as saying the case was  not a personal matter and was not connected with his WikiLeaks work.

Assange, dressed in a navy suit and wearing an open-neck white shirt, initially gave  his address in court as a PO Box in Australia. Pressed for a more precise address,  he gave a street in Victoria, Australia.

Australian journalist, John Pilger, British film director, Ken Loach and Jemima  Khan, former wife of Pakistani cricketer and politician Imran Khan, all offered to  put up sureties to persuade the court Assange would not abscond.

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Pilger, who offered 20,000 pounds, told the court: “These charges against him in  Sweden are absurd and were judged absurd by a senior Swedish prosecutor.

“It would be a travesty for Mr. Assange to go within that kind of Swedish system.”

The U.S. government and others across the world have argued the publication of  cables is irresponsible and could put their national security at risk.

The WikiLeaks website was shut down after apparent political pressure on service  providers, but WikiLeaks said there were now 750 global mirror sites meaning the  data so far released remained publicly available. More cables would be released  later on Tuesday, it said.

Lawyer Gemma Lindfield, representing the Swedish judicial authorities, said the  extradition case contained allegations of four sexual assaults by Assange against  two women in Stockholm in August 2010. One charge over Miss A is that Assange  “sexually molested her” by ignoring her request for him to use a condom when having  sex with her.

Another charge relates to “Miss W,” who alleged Assange had sex with her without a  condom while she was sleeping on August 7.

Swedish prosecutors opened, then dropped, then re-opened an investigation into the  allegations. The crime he is suspected of is the least severe of three categories of  rape, carrying a maximum of four years in jail.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer has said his client would fight any extradition and  believed foreign powers were influencing Sweden.

Swiss PostFinance, the banking arm of state-owned Swiss Post, has closed an account  used for WikiLeaks donations and online payment service PayPal has also suspended  WikiLeaks’ account. Visa Europe said on Tuesday it had suspended payments to the  WikiLeaks website.

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