A court in London refused bail to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, and ordered that he remain in custody for a week, after being arrested on an extradition warrant. (photo, from aljazeera.net)
But the 39-year-old Australian vowed to fight extradition to Sweden.
On Tuesday, Assange who is wanted in Sweden on allegations of sex crimes, handed himself into authorities in the British capital.The bail was denied on the grounds that there was a risk Assange would fail to surrender.
The Swedish authorities were represented by Gemma Lindfield, who told the court Assange should not be granted bail because of his “nomadic” lifestyle, his Australian citizenship and reports that he intended to seek asylum in Switzerland.
“This is someone for whom, simply put, there is no condition, even the most stringent that would ensure he would surrender to the jurisdiction of this court,” the Press Association quoted her as saying.
Wikileaks founder was ordered to appear at the court for an extradition hearing on December 14.
Several well know personalities offered to stand as surety for Assange, among them were Jemima Khan, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger.
In a statement, police said Assange was “accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010″.
‘Justice will out’
Outside the court Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer said his client was likely to appeal Tuesday’s decision, adding that they were entitled to take the case to a higher court.
“The British judicial system is robust enough to deal with this kind of thing and I’m sure that justice will out,” he told reporters.
He said that the Swedish prosecutor had not told Assange what the nature of the allegations are or what the evidence against him is.
According to Marianne Ny, the Swedish director of prosecution, the sexual misconduct case against Assange is a personal matter and not connected with his work.
“We have nothing which indicates that this is a plot,” Ny was quoted by newspaper Aftonbladet as saying at a news conference in the western city of Gothenburg on Tuesday.
Accused of rape and sexual molestation in Sweden, the case could lead to Assange’s extradition.
He has denied the accusations, which Stephens, his attorney, said stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex”.
Assange slept with two women during a visit to Sweden last August, said media reports. A Swedish newspaper quoted one of the women as saying that the sex was consensual to begin with, but ended with abuse.
And in an interview with Aftonbladet, one of the women also dismissed claims that the allegations had been orchestrated by the Pentagon, angered by the release on documents about Iraq.
According to Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s London-based lawyer, he will likely resist being returned to Sweden for fear he could be turned over to the US where outrage is growing over the leak of documents.
“I think he will get a fair hearing here in Britain but I think…his prospects if he were ever to be returned to the US, which is a real threat, of a fair trial, is, in my view, nigh on impossible,” she told Australian broadcaster the ABC.
‘Shoot the messenger’
Posting the US diplomatic correspondence on the web was “grossly irresponsible”, said Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister on Tuesday. She added that the publication would not have been possible “if there had not been an illegal act undertaken” in the United States.
She also said police were still investigating whether Assange had broken any Australian laws.
Assange published an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday in which he attacked Gillard, saying her government was trying to “shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed”.
“Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel?” he wrote.
“One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality”.
Following the disclosure of a mountain of classified US cables, which embarrassed Washington and other governments, the whistleblowing website has been under intense international scrutiny.
A lot of pressure was put on Wikileaks and those who help it by US officials, who are investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted under American espionage laws.
And the Swiss authorities have deprived Assange of a key fundraising tool by closing his bank account.
Another problem that the website has to face is its struggle to stay online. Wikileaks has to face more and more hacker attacks and resistance from world governments who get help from computer-savvy advocates who have set up hundreds of “mirrors”, or carbon-copy websites around the world.
Trying to protect himself and the people working for the website, Assange has warned that a heavily encrypted version of some of its most important documents has been distributed, and that the information could be instantly made public if the staff were arrested.