WikiLeaks boss stays in jail due to credit card row
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is to remain behind bars despite being granted bail by a British court, after his dispute with the world's biggest credit card companies forced his supporters into the position of trying to raise £200,000 (€235,000) in cash.
Lord Evans, the Labour peer, Bianca Jagger, the actress, and Jemima Khan, the charity worker and socialite, are among those who have pledged money to secure Mr Assange's release from Wandsworth Prison. He faces extradition to Sweden where he is wanted by prosecutors over claims that he sexually assaulted two women.
On Tuesday the chief magistrate overturned an earlier decision to deny bail to the 39-year-old Australian, instead imposing strict conditions and ordering his supporters lodge £200,000 with the court. But outside City of Westminster magistrates' court, Mr Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens announced that, due to the bitter dispute between WikiLeaks and Master Card and Visa, the money would have to be amassed in cash.
He said Mr Assange would remain in "Dickensian" conditions for an "inordinate amount of time" until his supporters got the cash together.
Master Card, Visa and Paypal, the online payment service, have blocked payments to the website.
In a message from jail, Mr Assange said the companies were "instruments of US foreign policy".
Both Visa and Master Card made clear that there was no bar on their customers using their cards to make payments to the court.
Later lawyers for the Swedish government lodged an appeal against the bail ruling, meaning that Mr Assange cannot be released until the matter is resolved at a High Court hearing today or tomorrow. Mr Stephens disclosed that Michael Moore, the documentary maker; Hanif Kureshi, the author; Ken Loach, the director; and John Pilger, the journalist, were among those who have offered to contribute.
John Sulston, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist, and the Marchioness of Worcester have also offered money. Sarah Saunders, a catering company boss from Kent and a friend of Mr Assange, came up with the biggest pledge, telling the court she would be prepared to provide £150,000.
The district judge disclosed that earlier suspicions that Mr Assange had entered Britain illegally, the main reason why he was initially denied bail, had been unfounded. (© Daily Telegraph, London)