15 Dec 2010

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange awaits bail decision

Vaughan Smith tells Channel 4 News why he offered his home as a bail address for Julian Assange, as it is announced the appeal against the WikiLeaks founder being granted bail will be heard tomorrow

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange awaits bail decision

High Court officials announced that Swedish authorities will tomorrow appeal against the decision to grant Julian Assange bail.

Amid protests outside Westminster Magistrates’ court, a judge decided to free the whistleblower yesterday on the condition he deposited £200,000 in cash at the court.

He also ordered that a further two sureties were given, each to the value of £20,000, and imposed a string of strict bail conditions.

A number of high-profile supporters including socialite Jemima Khan, novelist Tariq Ali, campaigner Bianca Jagger and film-maker Ken Loach (pictured below) offered sureties.

Why I am offering Julian Assange my home for his bail address

"I felt the need to take this position because I want to see that Julian Assange gets justice", Vaughan Smith told Channel 4 News. "I got to know Julian well over the last five months.

"As a journalist, I felt it is important to take a position on this issue. I think that Julian holds up a mirror that journalists like myself can look into, and perhaps we don’t always like what we see. I think journalism is getting closer to power and to the establishment than we have realised.

"People who feel strongly about this need to declare themselves. We need to find a resolution to this enormous challenge Julian Assange has presented us with, whatever we think of the individual."

Read more from Vaughan Smith here

But the bail decision was overridden two hours later when Swedish authorities appealed, meaning Assange, 39, was sent back to London’s Wandsworth prison.

The Australian is fighting extradition to Sweden where he denies sexually assaulting two women.

Yesterday Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens told Channel 4 News a “vindictive campaign” was being carried out by Swedish prosecutors. The Swedish appeal, which “smacks of a highly-politicised stunt”, was turning into a “show trial”, he said.

The Swedes will not abide with the umpire’s decision and they want to put Mr Assange through yet more trouble, more expense and more hurdles. Defence solicitor Mark Stephens

“After two hours we have heard that the Swedes will not abide with the umpire’s decision and they want to put Mr Assange through yet more trouble, more expense and more hurdles,” Stephens said.

“This is just the Swedes continuing with their vindictive campaign – spending any amount of money to ensure Julian Assange stays in jail.”

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange awaits bail decision

High-profile supporters were joined by veteran journalist John Pilger, gay rights activist Peter Tatchell and Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith. Others who had pledged support and were waiting in the wings included author Hanif Kureishi and film-maker Michael Moore.

Sex allegations

Assange is wanted in Sweden over claims he sexually assaulted two women during a visit to Stockholm in August.

But his supporters claim the criminal inquiry and extradition request is unfair and politically motivated.

Assange, a former computer hacker, is behind the release of hundreds of United States diplomatic cables that have caused global uproar. Assange was denied bail at his first court appearance last week on the grounds he could flee the country.

If granted bail strict conditions include electronic tagging. Assange will live at Ellingham Hall near Bungay in Suffolk, a property in 600 acres of private grounds. The estate is owned by WikiLeaks supporter Vaughan Smith.

Assange must also leave his passport with police, observe a curfew and report to a police station every day.