Thu, Dec 16, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Assange bail appeal to be heard today

NOT CRICKET:The WikiLeaks chief’s lawyer accused Sweden of failing to ‘abide by the umpire’s decision’ in appealing against a bail verdict in Julian Assange’s favor

AFP, LONDON

The appeal against bail for WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange will be heard in London’s High Court today, court officials confirmed yesterday.

Lawyers acting for Sweden have challenged a British judge’s order that he can be freed under stringent conditions.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Assange complained that his legal team was being denied access to his client in jail.

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 Wandsworth Prison, WikiLeaks continued to release US diplomatic cables, with one showing a former Thai prime minister with close ties to fugitive former prime minister 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 (US$315,000) with an additional £40,000 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.

However, Sweden’s insistence on challenging the bail order means an appeal will be heard in the High Court in London by the end of today.

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 Assange would have to wear an electronic tag as part of his bail conditions, which 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 organization he founded pursues its mission to release classified information which is believed to have been obtained from a US soldier.

The latest cables released yesterday 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 center 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.

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