Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Image by bbwbryant via FlickrArrested WikiLeaks chief denied bail in U.K. - U.S. news - WikiLeaks in Security - msnbc.com
LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail and jailed for a week by a British court Tuesday, pending an extradition hearing over alleged sex offenses in Sweden.
Assange surrendered to U.K. police earlier in the day in the latest blow to his WikiLeaks organization, which faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Swedish prosecutors had issued an arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who is accused of rape and sexual molestation in one case and of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in another.
Assange surrendered at 9:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET) Tuesday. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported that Assange later arrived at a London court accompanied by British lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson.
During his court appearance, Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden and he provided the court with an Australian address. Britain's Sky News reported that Assange was receiving consular assistance from officials at the Australian High Commission.
The next court hearing is scheduled to take place December 14, and Assange will remain in custody until then because he was deemed to be a flight risk.
Judge Howard Riddle told Assange that he had "substantial grounds" to believe he wouldn't turn up for subsequent proceedings.
In response, WikiLeaks tweeted: "Let down by the UK justice system's bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange. But #cablegatereleases continue as planned."
Speaking after the hearing, Stephens said it had been difficult to mount an argument for bail because he had not been able to see any of the evidence against Assange.
He said "many people believe this prosecution is politically motivated," but added that he was "sure the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by politicians." He said he hoped he would be able to say the same for the Swedish system.
Stephens said the judge appeared to have made a "close call" on whether to release Assange on bail. He said the judge had asked to see the evidence, which Stephens described as “very thin indeed,” against Assange.
Several supporters gathered outside the court holding placards reading "Gagging the truth" and "Protect free speech," NBC News said.
"This is going to go viral," Stephens said. "Many people will come forward to stand as an asurety to Mr. Assange."