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WikiLeaks' Assange Freed On Bail


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emerges from a London courtroom after being released from prison on bail.
Julian Assange, the controversial founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblower website, has plegded to continue his work, after being released from a London jail on December 16.

Appearing on the steps of London's High Court to a flood of flashing cameras, he vowed to clear his name and continue the work that has provoked the ire of the Obama administration and other governments.

"I hope to continue my work and continue to [defend] my innocence in this matter and to reveal -- as we get it, which we have not yet -- the evidence from these allegations," Assange said.

The 39-year-old Australian, who has caused an international diplomatic stir for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. cables on everything from the war in Afghanistan to Russia's leadership, had been held for over a week in prison.

His release came after a judge upheld a lower court's December 14 decision to free him on more than $300,000 bail with strict conditions.

That ruling was appealed by Swedish prosecutors, who are fighting to extradite Assange to Sweden, where his wanted on allegations of committing sex crimes against two women.

Assange's supporters have said that the charges are politically motivated.

After Sweden's appeal was denied, Mark Stephens, one of Assange's lawyers, told reporters "we are utterly delighted and thrilled with the results here today."

"We think it was an unnecessary appeal," he continued. "I think it is unfortunate, and it is clearly evidence of part of a continuing vendetta on the part of the Swedes against Julian Assange."

After being released, the WikiLeaks founder thanked his supporters, which include a number of celebrities and rights activists who helped to put up Assange's bail money, as well his legal team, for a "successful fight."

He also thanked the British justice system, where, he said, "If justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet."

Conditions Of Release

Under the conditions of the bail deal set earlier by a lower court, Assange was ordered to stay on the south England estate of Vaughan Smith, the wealthy founder of the Frontline journalist's club.

Higher court Judge Duncan Ouseley added to the ruling that Assange must stay in a restricted area of the estate instead of having access to its more than 600 acres.

He must also wear an electronic tag, report to police every evening, and observe two four-hour curfews each day.

Assange's request last week for bail was denied amid concern that he might try to flee the country.

Judge Ouseley clarified that, "The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution."

However, Assange's passport will remain in police custody.

According to "The New York Times," the judge also sought financial guarantees from two close associates of Assange, raising the total amount of the bail deal to $370,000.

Web Of Accusations

Officials from the United States, Britain, and other nations have accused WikiLeaks of endangering the security of troops and government officials, as well as national security.

The U.S. Justice Department is looking into a range of criminal charges that could be filed in the WikiLeaks case, but has denied accusations by Assange's lawyers that the Swedish warrant was issued under U.S. pressure.

In recent days, a string of U.S.-based companies -- including the credit card companies Visa and Mastercard, as well as, and PayPal -- cut ties to WikiLeaks.

The Swiss post office banking service, PostFinance, said last week that its website was suffering denial of service attacks since it closed Assange's bank account.

The Wikileaks founder is expected to appear in court again next month.

Swedish prosecutors said the bail decision would not change their investigation or deter efforts to extradite Assange.

Meanwhile, Australian police have announced that WikiLeaks did not commit any criminal offense in the country by releasing secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

written by Richard Solash with agency reports