WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains behind bars after Swedish authorities challenged yesterday’s ruling by Westminster magistrates’ court to grant him bail.
For a while confusion reigned. The decision to grant bail – set at £240,000 – to Assange, who faces charges of rape in Sweden, was met with jubilation by supporters, who include journalist John Pilger, film maker Ken Loach and socialite Jemima Khan.
But within hours, counsel for the prosecution indicated it would appeal, and Assange will remain in jail until a hearing at the Court of Appeal within 48 hours.
Court 1 was so packed that Assange’s counsel, Geoffrey Robinson, had to bang on the door to get in. Assange entered at 2.12pm. Unusually, journalists were allowed to tweet proceedings. Outside the court, the world’s media had gathered, filling the pavement.
Robertson told the court: “We doubt whether this actual category of rape would be rape under English law”.
For the Swedish authorities, Gemma Lindfield argued that there was a real possibility that, if bailed, Assange would leave the country. “This is not a case about WikiLeaks, rather a case about alleged serious offences against two women,” she said.
If bailed, Assange will have to stay at an estate owned by Frontline club founder Vaughan Smith, one of those offering security, report daily to a police station and be subject to curfew. His solicitor Mark Stephens accused the Swedish authorities of mounting a “persecution not a prosecution”,
Before the hearing, Assange remained defiant and committed to publishing more secret US cables. “My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them,” he said in a statement passed to Australian television by his mother.
The 39-year-old Australian turned himself in to Scotland Yard detectives last week after being accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden. Sweden has yet to formally charge Assange with any offence. Assange has vowed to fight attempts to extradite him.
His legal team claimed Swedish prosecutors were put under political pressure to discredit Assange, whose website has provoked US anger.