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December 14, 2010

Sweden Appeals British Bail for 'WikiLeaks' Founder

by Jennifer Glasse

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will remain in jail after Swedish prosecutors appealed a British judge's decision to grant bail. Assange is wanted for questioning in connection with allegations of sexual molestation and rape in Sweden.

A British judge granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange bail on several conditions. He must turn in his passport to police, stay at a certain residence monitored by an electronic tag twice a day and post about $315,000 bail in cash.

But Swedish prosecutors immediately appealed the decision, meaning Assange will stay in prison at least until the appeal can be heard Thursday. Sweden is attempting to extradite Assange for questioning on allegations of sexual molestation and rape.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, says the conditions in jail are poor.

"He is denied access and the ability to talk to other prisoners, he is locked up for 23 and a half hours a day and he is subject to infrared photography 24 hours a day so it is a pretty unpleasant experience that he is going through at the moment," Stephens said.

Assange's mother, Christine, echoed Stephens account.

"He has had minimal visits. It has been very difficult for him to help with his lawyers to prepare a case. He has requested to have a computer so he could help research the case and be in contact with him. That was denied. He has only been allowed three visits and he has only been allowed three phone calls."

Journalist John Pilger said he is hopeful Assange will be free soon.

"There is no case against Julian Assange, we have his Swedish lawyer here, we have so much more information. The fact that he has been in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison is a disgrace," said Pilger.

Prosecutors in Sweden insist their case has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, and is purely about allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. Assange's lawyer has said his client repeatedly offered to cooperate with the prosecutor when he was in Sweden and when in Britain.

In addition to preparing for Thursday's bail hearing, Stephens says he is working on getting together the bail money.

"It obviously takes some significant amount of time, even for people of enormous wealth, particularly for people of enormous wealth, to liquidate funds to make them available," Stephens added.

Pilger said he knows that Assange has angered some people.

"I think there are threats to Julian," said Pilger. "Julian has made some very serious enemies, all for the right reasons, but he has made very serious enemies."

The WikiLeaks website continues to release U.S. government cables even with Assange in jail.