WikiLeaks lawyers complain at treatment

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A lawyer for Julian Assange complained Wednesday that his legal team was being denied access to the WikiLeaks founder in jail, where he waits to hear if he will be freed on bail.

Assange will know by Thursday if he will be allowed to leave Wandsworth prison in London after lawyers acting for Sweden challenged a British judge's order that he be freed under stringent conditions.

Swedish investigators want to question Assange over allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Stockholm in August, but his supporters insist the process is politically motivated.

As Assange woke up for another day in prison, WikiLeaks continued to release US diplomatic cables, with one showing a former Thai prime minister with close ties to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra accused the queen of being behind a 2006 coup that ousted his ally.

Assange was on Tuesday granted bail on condition he pays a security of 200,000 pounds (315,000 dollars, 235,000 euros) with an additional 40,000 pounds guaranteed in sureties.

A collection of celebrity supporters including maverick US film director Michael Moore, British director Ken Loach, campaigning socialite Bianca Jagger and journalist John Pilger have helped put up the bail.

Supporters have reportedly collected half of the cash required by the court.

But Sweden's insistence on challenging the bail order means an appeal will be heard in the High Court in London by the end of Thursday.

Mark Stephens, Assange's lawyer, dismissed suggestions that the 39-year-old Australian would try to flee the country if released on bail.

"The suggestion that he is a flight risk is faintly ludicrous," he told BBC television.

Stephens said the bail condition that Assange will have to wear an electronic tag would allow British authorities to locate him at all times.

He complained that the prison continued to make it difficult for lawyers to meet Assange and prepare his legal case.

"I can't get access to him," he said. "I will not be able to take instructions from him."

He accused Sweden of failing to "abide by the umpire's decision" in appealing against the bail verdict.

If Assange is released, he will have to reside at the country estate of Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, a media club where WikiLeaks has based part of its operations.

While Assange remains in prison, the organisation he founded pursues its mission to release classified information which is believed to have been obtained from a US soldier.

The latest cables released Wednesday show Samak Sundaravej, who was Thailand's prime minister for seven months in 2008, alleged that Queen Sirikit had been the driving force behind a 2006 military coup which ousted Thaksin.

Another cable revealed Washington's fears about the failure of west African governments to tackle increased drug trafficking.

Much of the concern focuses on Ghana, which sits at the centre of a new cocaine transit zone, according to the cables revealed in The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

The release of the cables has enraged Washington, where some Republicans have called for Assange to be indicted for espionage.

© 2010 AFP

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