WikiLeaks' Assange vows to clear name as freed on bail
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed to clear his name of allegations of sexual assault and pursue his work with the whistleblowing website after he was freed on bail by a London court.
"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," Assange said Thursday on the steps of the High Court where he was greeted by a media scrum.
Assange and his lawyers insist that moves to extradite him from Britain to Sweden to face questioning over allegations he sexually assaulted two women are politically motivated.
Amid a hail of camera flashes, Assange thanked "all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away."
The 39-year-old Australian said that by granting him bail and releasing him after nine days in London's Wandsworth prison, the British justice system had proved that "if justice is not always the outcome at least it is not dead yet".
His website has rocked Washington by releasing thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, and his supporters have linked his detention to the massive leak.
Assange voiced fears that the US was pursuing him, saying after his release from jail that he had heard rumours the United States had indicted him for espionage.
"We have also heard today from one of my US lawyers, yet to be confirmed... that there may be a US indictment for espionage for me coming from a secret US grand jury investigation," he told Sky News.
He expressed fears that the extradition proceedings to Sweden may actually be "an attempt to get me into a jurisdiction which will then make it easier to extradite me to the US."
Swedish prosecutors have denied the case has anything to do with WikiLeaks.
Assange's release had been delayed by several hours, apparently by haggling over the availability of the 240,000-pound (283,000-euro, 374,000-dollar) surety which has been put up by supporters including film director Michael Moore.
A senior judge had earlier rejected an appeal by lawyers working on behalf of Sweden to keep him in jail pending extradition.
As a condition of his release, Assange will swap the stark surroundings of prison for a friend's country mansion in Suffolk, eastern England.
He will have to report regularly to police, wear a security tag and will be under a curfew. The extradition hearings will resume next year.
Assange's mother, Christine, and supporters including campaigning journalist John Pilger, had earlier packed into the courtroom for the hour-and-a-half hearing along with hordes of journalists.
"I'm very, very happy with the decision. I can't wait to see my son and to hold him close," Christine Assange said.
Assange, a former computer hacker, was in court to hear the senior judge reject an appeal against a ruling Tuesday by a lower court that he be bailed.
The appeal was lodged by British lawyers on behalf of Sweden.
Judge Duncan Ouseley rejected the prosecution's argument that Assange was a flight risk, saying: "The court does not approach this case on the basis that this is a fugitive from justice who seeks to avoid interrogation and prosecution."
In arguing the accusations are unfounded, Assange's supporters cite the timing of his arrest, which coincided with the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.
Assange arrived later at Ellingham Hall, a mansion on the 600-acre country estate of Vaughan Smith, an ex-British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, the media club in London that is the British base of WikiLeaks' operations.
He said it was good to be free for Christmas but lashed out at his bail conditions, telling BBC television: "It is a very Orwellian situation when you are under hi-tech house arrest."
Assange will stay there during the ongoing extradition proceedings, which may take months.
Meanwhile WikiLeaks released new cables Thursday, with Thailand's revered royal family again at the centre of the revelations.
A memo from the US embassy in Bangkok showed top palace officials expressed concern about the prospect of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn becoming king.
Another leaked cable revealed that an oil platform in Azerbaijan operated by BP suffered a blowout and a huge gas leak around 18 months before the Gulf of Mexico spill.
© 2010 AFP