Assange Bail Hearing UnderwayDecember 14, 2010 - 10:59 AM | by: Amy Kellogg
UPDATE: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been granted bail by a British court, but is still in prison because, Swedish authorities are challenging this bail decision.
That means Assange will remain in jail for another 48 hours, at least.
“They want to put Mr. Assange through more trouble. “ said his principal lawyer Mark Stephens. He went on, “this is really turning into a show trial.”
Originally, Stephens had said the only thing standing between Assange and his relative freedom was actually getting the bail money together. Though he has lots of people pledging cash on his behalf, that money has somehow got to make its way to the court.
£200,000 has to be delivered. That is the equivalent of $315,000. Lawyer Mark Stephens said it needed to be in cash.
Celebrities from Jemima Khan, to Michael Moore, to Hanif Kureishi have said they will pony up the cash for bail if Assange is in fact free to go.
But now, the Swedish challenge.
His bail conditions, if the Swedes lose the challenge, will be fairly strict. He will stay at the home of Vaughan Smith, former Army Captain, cameraman and founder of the Frontline Club, a club for journalists in London. Smith’s estate is a 600 acre spread of real estate outside London. Assange will live in splendour, but under a curfew, which is not just at night but for several hours each day as well. And he will have to wear an electronic bracelet and check in with police daily.
“I am satisfied that the conditions I am going to impose will make it certain as far as the risk of flight is concerned,” said district judge Howard Riddle.
Assange’s high profile freedom of speech lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, recently added to his team, said the allegations made against him by two Swedish women should not be taken seriously.
“It was very clear this is not an extremely serious offence. It is arguably not even a rape offence,” he said.
Assange’s supporters say this is all being politicized. Lawyer Mark Stephens insists he is innocent. And that he doesn’t deserve to spend another night in prison, under what Stephens calls “Dickensian, Victorian conditions” at Wandsworth prison.
After the bail situation is sorted out, the extradition hearing will have to happen, to determine whether or not Assange has to go to Sweden to answer questions in relation to the possible sex crimes charges.
The first headline to emerge from Julian Assange’s bail hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court was that the judge would allow journalists to tweet from inside the courtroom. As long as they were quiet.
The running commentary began—packed court, Bianca Jagger in the house, Assange with smart gray cropped hair, in the same suit he wore at his last hearing.
This is a hearing related to a sex abuse case, but the new media element was everywhere. Assange’s supporters, sympathetic “hacktivists” wreaked havoc in the past week, temporarily disabling websites of PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, after those companies put the squeeze on Wikileaks’ funding.
Many of them were outside the courthouse. There was a heavy police presence. And an enormous media presence.
The Wikileaks founder has assembled a formidable legal team, including Geoffrey Roberston, a celebrity freedom of speech lawyer who worked with Salman Rushdie. His Swedish lawyer thinks they can put down the sex allegations. And that they were motivated by jealousy and disappointment.
Assange’s legal team wants their client free as the extradition issue plays itself out. They are arguing he is not a flight risk, as his face has been plastered across the covers of newspapers and magazines around the world. And he could wear an electronic magnet, they offer. Bail was denied Assange in the last hearing because Assange had nothing but a post office box address in Australia.
Julian Assange has not been allowed access to the internet during his incarceration and according to his lawyer has had three visits and three phone calls from lawyers and his mother.
His mother, Christine Assange spoke to her son on the phone this morning. He told her, “My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination, they they are true and correct.”
Julian Assange also lashed out at certain corporations. “We now know that Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and others are instruments of U. S. foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.”
It is expected that this decision on extraditing Assange to Sweden to face questioning on sex crime allegations could take months.