WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange vowed to clear his name and pursue his work releasing secret documents as he enjoyed his first day of freedom yesterday after being released on bail by a British 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 on 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 outside the London court, Assange thanked “all the people around the world who have had faith in me, who have supported my team while I have been away.”
His Web site has rocked Washington by releasing hundreds of classified US diplomatic cables and his supporters have linked his detention to the massive leak. The 39-year-old Australian arrived later at a country mansion in eastern England, where he will stay while on bail, and spoke of his joy at being released.
“It is very nice to be free for Christmas and to smell the fresh air,” he told reporters outside the manor house, which is a marked difference from the cell in London’s Wandsworth Prison where he had spent the past nine days.
However, he criticized his stringent bail conditions, which include wearing a security tag and being under curfew, telling the BBC: “It is a very Orwellian situation when you are under high-tech house arrest.”
He is staying at Ellingham Hall, a mansion on the 243 hectare country estate of Vaughan Smith, an former British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, the media club in London that is the British base of WikiLeaks’ operations.
Assange will stay there during the ongoing extradition proceedings, which may take months.
The WikiLeaks frontman also voiced fears over US attempts to pursue him, saying that he had heard rumors that the US was preparing an indictment 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.
Earlier on Thursday, Assange’s release was delayed by several hours, apparently by haggling over the availability of the ￡240,000 (US$374,000) 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.
Assange’s mother, Christine, and supporters including campaigning journalist John Pilger, had 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.