News / Europe

Wikileaks Publisher Julian Assange Released from Jail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after his release on bail, 16 Dec 2010
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after his release on bail, 16 Dec 2010

A London court  granted Julian Assange bail Thursday and he walked out of jail a free man.  For now.  Assange is still under house arrest and faces an extradition hearing in Janurary.  Our correspondent explains what's next for Assange and any U.S. charges against him.

Julian Assange walked out of jail on Thursday, his first freedom in nine days.

"Well it's great to smell the fresh air of London again," said Assange.

Assange turned himself in on December 7 after an international warrant was issued for his arrest.  Swedish authorities want to question him about allegations of rape.

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

Assange is free after he posted more than $300,000 in cash.  He must wear a monitoring device and check in with police daily.  

Wikileaks is in the process of releasing a quarter of a million secret U.S. diplomatic cables, angering governments worldwide.

On Capitol Hill, the  U.S. House Judiciary Committee is looking into the legal issues surrounding WikiLeaks.  Virginia Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte:

"I would say, first of all, that the lack of security safeguards for protecting classified material is stunningly poor and this problem is enhanced by the use of modern technology," said Goodlatte.

Democratic Representative William Delahunt of Massachusetts wants Congress to look at what information is being stamped classified.

"There is far too much secrecy and overclassification within the executive branch and I think it puts American democracy at risk," said Delahunt.

There's a move in Congress to update the Espionage Act written in 1917 - a time when immediate
media transmition was unimaginable.

Abbe Lowell represents Americans charged under the act.  He says the changes should clarify the violations for government workers, average Americans, and especially journalists with their first amendment rights.

"We must distinguish between disclosures of classified information done with an intent to injure the U.S. and
those where a person is not acting with that criminal intent," said Lowell.

Committee chairman, Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers encouraged a slow, deliberate analysis of the
law prior to any changes.  In appearing to support Assange, Conyers breaks from most on Capitol Hill and in the
administration.

"Many feel their publication was offensive," said Conyers. "But unpopularity is not a crime and publishing offensive
information isn't either."

So far, Assange is not facing charges related to WikiLeaks.  A hearing on Sweden's extradition request will be held next month.  For now, Assange is required to stay at a friend's 10-bedroom mansion, where he is free to use the internet.  


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

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