In London this morning, the judge denied an appeal by Swedish prosecutors to keep Julian Assange in prison while the U.K. decides whether it will extradite him on sex-crimes charges. Pending a few more financial pledges for the bail, which shouldn’t be that hard to muster,
Assange will be released from solitary confinement soon. Assange, who will be under electronic surveillance, will be held under “manor arrest” at journalist Vaugh Smith’s 600-acre estate in Suffolk, under the conditions of his bail. The judge wasn’t as permissive about Twitter, however. With no cameras in the courtroom, news outlets have been relying on tweets from reporters and other onlookers in the hearing to relay what’s happening. Today, however, the judge banned 140-character communiqués on the proceedings, although the Guardian staff is still twittering away.
Denial of the appeal didn’t dissuade prosecutors from arguing against the conditions of the bail, which initially called for $310,000 in security and reporting to a nearby police station every day at 6 p.m. They claimed that the state of the country roads and the fact that the tiny rural police station is open only from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. would make that a problem.
The judge expressed his own concerns over Assange’s rich and powerful supporters, like Australian documentarian John Pilger and socialite Jemima Kahn, wondering if their financial pledges were more about the WikiLeaks cause than a personal voucher for Assange. The one laugh at the hearing this morning came when the judge scoffed at using Pilger as a surety since he was just “another peripatetic Australian.” Even Assange cracked a smile at that one.
Here’s an audio recording of Vaughn Smith responding to the judge’s decision. When asked if Assange could operate his business from Smith’s home, the independently wealthy British journalist replied, “I see no reason why he shouldn’t have guests.” Smith added that the fact that Assange was awarded cost for today’s hearing, which means that Sweden will have to pay, “suggests that they shouldn’t have appealed.” He also noted that the judge emphasized that Assange has “never been any form of fugitive” in the U.K., despite the sudden ubiquity of the phrase international manhunt.
Smith also addressed the judge’s charge that Assange’s financial supporters were backing WikiLeaks’s project, rather than Assange. Said Smith, “I’ve covered wars and many other journalists have and one can comment on battlefield friendships. It’s the depth of the trench and not the timing you necessarily known somebody.” Looks like the notion that we’re at the start of an Information War is gaining traction — and everybody’s picking their side. Might also want to change your passwords while you’re at it.