Julian Assange is remanded in custody after appearing in a London court on an extradition warrant.
|The ‘secret’ information made available to the public through WikiLeaks has been welcomed by many [GALLO/GETTY]|
Julian Assange, founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, is attending a London court hearing in an attempt to secure bail for the second time in a week.
The 39-year-old Australian is being held at Wandsworth prison in the capital after being arrested last week in releation to allegations of sex crimes in Sweden, which he denies.
Protesters have gathered outside the Westminster magistrate’s court to show their support for the website founder.
Assange’s lawyers, who are making the bail application on Tuesday, have said the charges are politically motivated after thousands of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks angered governments around the world.
The website founder has denounced Visa, MasterCard and Paypal for blocking donations to his website in the wake of the release.
Speaking to his mother from his prison cell, Assange said the firms were “instruments of US foreign policy” but said their actions would not stop WikiLeaks from continuing to publish to 250,000 cables.
“My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed,” he said in a statement to Australian television, dictated by his mother Christine Assange.
“These circumstances shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct.”
Fears over US charges
Assange was accused in August of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers during his stay in Sweden.
A Swedish prosecutor wants to question him about the accusations, although the chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, cancelled a previous arrest warrant on the grounds that there was no “reason to suspect that he committed rape”.
Assange is alleged to have sexually molested one woman in Sweden by ignoring her request to use a condom when having sex with her.
Another woman alleged that Assange had sex with her without a condom while she was asleep.
The crime Assange is suspected of is the least severe of three categories of rape, carrying a maximum of four years in jail.
Assange was remanded in custody at an initial British court hearing last week. He has voiced fears along with his lawyers that US prosecutors may be preparing to indict him for espionage after embarrassing leaks by his website.
“I came to Sweden as a refugee publisher involved with an extraordinary publishing fight with the Pentagon, where people were being detained and there is an attempt to prosecute me for espionage,” Assange said.
The US justice department has been looking into a range of criminal charges, including violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, that could be filed in the WikiLeaks case.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer has said he would fight any attempt to extradite his client.
At last week’s court hearing in London, senior district Judge Howard Riddle said there were “substantial grounds” to believe Assange could abscond if granted bail.
John Pilger, prominent Australian journalist; Ken Loach, British film director and Jemima Khan, British socialite, all offered to put up sureties to persuade the court that Assange would not abscond.