Sunday 19 November 2017

WikiLeaks: Assange pledges to fight on as High Court frees him on bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrates as he emerges to speak to the media on the steps of the High Court in London yesterday
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrates as he emerges to speak to the media on the steps of the High Court in London yesterday

Paula Irving in London

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emerged from the High Court in London yesterday vowing to "continue his work and protest his innocence" after being released on bail.

The 39-year-old whistleblower was greeted by cheers from his supporters and the microphones and cameras of the world's press following his nine-day stint on remand.

He said it was "great to smell the fresh air of London" before going on to thank "all the people around the world who had faith in me".

Mr Assange walked out of the High Court shortly before 6pm, just hours after a judge ruled that he should be released.

The Australian is wanted in Sweden for alleged sex offences, which he denies, and is facing extradition proceedings in the new year.

His lawyers have accused the Swedish authorities of waging a "vendetta" against him.

In a further twist, Mr Assange suggested last night that he may face separate prosecution in the US.

He told the BBC that he had heard "a rumour from my lawyers in the United States, we have not confirmed yet, that there has been an indictment made against me in the US".

A spokeswoman from the US Department of Justice would only confirm that there was "an ongoing investigation into the WikiLeaks matter".

Earlier this week at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, he was granted bail pending the bid to extradite him to Sweden.

But Mr Assange remained in prison while the authorities challenged his release at the High Court in London, arguing that there was "a real risk" he would abscond.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Ouseley rejected submissions that the risk he posed made it impossible to set him free.

The judge said that his co-operation with police suggested he was not "a person who is seeking to evade justice".

The judge accepted offers by Mr Assange's supporters to stump up £200,000 (€236,000) as a cash deposit and a number of other sureties.

As he left court, Mr Assange gave thanks to his legal team who "put up a brave and ultimately successful fight".

He also paid tribute to "the British justice system itself, where, if justice isn't always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet".

He said that during his nine days behind bars he had time to "reflect on the conditions of those people around the world, also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me".

He added: "Those people also need your attention and your support, and with that I hope to continue my work and to continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal, as we get it, as we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations." Earlier, his solicitor Mark Stephens said he was "utterly delighted" with the judge's ruling, but added: "We think it was an unnecessary appeal.

"It really evidences part of a continuing vendetta on the part of the Swedes against Julian Assange."

Irish Independent

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