Sweden to appeal WikiLeaks founder's bail

Swedish authorities say they will appeal a British judge's decision to grant bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Swedish authorities said Tuesday they will appeal a British judge's decision to grant bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The decision means the 39-year-old Australian will remain behind bars for at least another 48 hours.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's relief at his bail ruling evaporated when Swedish authorities announced they would be appealing it, his lawyer Mark Stephens told reporters. ((Lennart Preiss/Associated Press) )

Britain's High Court will now hear the Swedish appeal, although it is not clear when.

District Judge Howard Riddle granted Assange bail earlier Tuesday.

Less than two hours later, prosecution lawyer Gemma Lindfield told the court she would challenge the decision, but did not elaborate.

Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, said it was "unfortunate" that "the Swedes won't abide by the umpire's decision," and that his client's relief at the bail ruling had evaporated.

"They clearly will not spare any expense but to keep Mr. Assange in jail," Stephens told journalists outside the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. "This is really turning into a show trial."

Before the appeal was announced, it appeared as if Assange would be free to leave prison once he posted bail, which was set at £200,000 ($317,663).

Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish police in connection with a sex-crimes investigation.

He has been imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison in southwest London since his arrest on Dec. 7. He was denied bail at a hearing that day after Riddle said he had "substantial grounds" to believe Assange would not appear for his next hearing.

'An innocent man'

Assange would have had to abide by strict bail conditions as he fights extradition to Sweden in a sex-crimes investigation, the judge ruled.

A supporter of Julian Assange stands outside the courtroom where the WikiLeaks founder was granted bail on Tuesday in London. ((Karel Prinsloo/Associated Press))

Under the conditions, Assange would have been required to wear an electronic monitoring device, live at a registered address, report to police every evening and adhere to two four-hour curfews a day.

Even without the appeal, it would have been "impossible to say how long it will take before [Assange] is out," his lawyer Mark Stephens told reporters after the bail hearing.

"Two hundred thousands pounds can't be paid by cheque, because cheques take seven days to clear," Stephens said. "So we have to go around and try and find money in cash and then have it delivered here to the court.

"And until this court is in possession of £200,000, an innocent man stays in jail."

A number of high-profile figures have offered to contribute to Assange's surety.

Prosecutors had tried to argue that Assange was a flight risk with "the means and ability to abscond."

His lawyers prevailed by outlining a series of strict conditions including a daily curfew.

Extradition hearing in February

Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish police on accusations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. The crimes are alleged to have happened with two women in separate incidents in August.

His lawyers said he continues to deny the accusations and will fight his extradition to Sweden. A two-day extradition hearing has been scheduled for early February.

Assange has steadfastly denied the accusations, suggesting the charges stem not from his actions but were provoked by his organization's release of thousands of confidential, and often embarrassingly frank, U.S. diplomatic documents.

In a statement given to his mother to release to Australian reporters, Assange suggested his commitment to WikiLeaks, and to releasing documents, was "unfaltering."

"I remain true to the ideals," he wrote. "This circumstance shall not shake them. If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

Celebrities in courtroom

Christine Assange flew to London for her son's court appearance and was seated in the courtroom's public gallery.

Lawyers, journalists and celebrities packed the courtroom. Filmmaker Ken Loach and socialite Jemima Khan were there; each had offered to contribute £20,000 ($31,835) toward Assange's bond. Other potential contributors include U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore, human rights advocate Bianca Jagger, Australian journalist Phil Knightley and British politician Lord Matthew Evans.

Assange was transported to the courthouse from Wandsworth Prison in the city's southwest at least two hours before his appearance. He has been held there, reportedly in solitary confinement, since his arrest.

Supporters across the street from the courthouse on Tuesday cheered when the bail ruling was announced. Dozens had arrived earlier in the morning, carrying signs reading "Free Assange."

Assange's arrest a week ago came six days after the WikiLeaks website began publishing the controversial diplomatic cables.

Interpol, the France-based international police organization, placed Assange on its most-wanted list on Nov. 30 after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him.

With files from The Associated Press