The High Court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be freed if he posts £240,000 in bail, rejecting prosecutors' appeal that he be imprisoned pending a January extradition hearing, according to the BBC.
Assange was granted bail on Tuesday in Westminster Magistrates Court on the conditions that he wears an electronic tracking tag, regularly checks in with police and adheres to a curfew. But the Crown Prosecution Service appealed the ruling, maintaining that Assange should remain in custody. In a statement, the Swedish Prosecution Authority affirmed that it was UK, not itself, which appealed.
Prosecutors argued that Assange has few ties to the UK, travels frequently and represents a flight risk. He has remained in jail since 7 December.
Assange is wanted for questioning by Sweden related to sexual assault allegations from two women stemming from two incidents in August in the country. According to the Metropolitan Police, Assange is accused of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape.
Assange has denied the allegations, maintaining that his contact with the women was consensual. He and his lawyers have said they believe the pursuit for Assange is related to WikiLeaks' ongoing release of US diplomatic cables, which has angered the US government.
Journalists and spectators convened en masse for Assange. Although Westminster Magistrates Court allowed reporters to use Twitter from the courtroom -- a deviation from the norm since courts regularly tell spectators to turn off their mobile phones -- Justice Duncan Ouseley did not allow reporters to use Twitter during Assange's latest hearing, according to the Guardian newspaper, which ran a live blog of the proceedings.
The US Attorney General's office is investigating Assange but has yet to charge him. It has raised questions over if Assange could eventually be extradited to the US from Sweden. Sweden's prosecutor's office addressed that scenario in its statement, saying that an extradition request from the U.S. would require the consent of the UK.
Assange is scheduled for an extradition hearing on 11 January. His attorney, Mark Stephens, said Thursday the bail money appears to have been raised.
While Assange remains under intense pressure, the US Army has charged a soldier whom they believed leaked the cables to WikiLeaks.
Private First Class Bradley E. Manning is charged with mishandling and transferring classified information in connection with the cables. He is also believed to be the source of video of an Apache helicopter shooting civilians in Iraq, which was also released on the whistle-blower website.
As of Thursday, WikiLeaks has published about 1,600 of more than 250,000 cables in its archive.
Picture: Espen Moe
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