Assange jailed but Wikileaks continues to publish

Jailing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not hinder the disclosure of more sensitive diplomatic cables, his solicitor said last night.

The 39-year-old Australian was remanded in custody yesterday after being refused bail at an extradition hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Speaking outside court, his lawyer Mark Stephens told reporters the controversial whistle-blowing website set up by Assange was supported by a “virtual” worldwide network of thousands of journalists and would continue to publish sensitive documents despite his arrest.

Assange was detained yesterday on charges of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden, which he denies.

Stephens said a second bail hearing will take place within weeks and suggested Assange may appeal to a higher court.

Stephens said: “We have seen Mr Assange remanded in custody. That was unfortunate, but WikiLeaks will continue. WikiLeaks is many thousands of journalists reporting news around the world.”

He added: “I am advised that WikiLeaks can continue to exist and that there are a number of other operatives.

“There are many thousands of journalists, a virtual journalistic community, around the world.

“We are on cable 301 today and I want to see the rest of those 250,000 cables coming out so full information is available.”

Speaking about the extradition case, Stephens added: “A renewed bail will be made.

“The position as we speak at the moment is we are in the rather exotic position of not having seen any of the evidence that Mr Assange is accused of.

“In these circumstances it is very difficult to mount a bail application on those grounds, as I am sure you will appreciate.

“We have heard the judge say he wishes to see the evidence himself. I think he was impressed by the fact that a number of people were prepared to stand up on behalf of Mr Assange and declare his innocence.”

Stephens said: “This is going to go viral. Many people will come forward to stand as surety for Mr Assange.

“Many people believe Mr Assange to be innocent, myself included, and many people believe that this prosecution is politically motivated.

“I am sure that the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by the politicians and our judges are impartial and fair and our prosecutors are impartial and fair.

“I hope I can say the same about Swedish prosecutors in the future.”

High-profile supporters

Supporters of Assange rallied at court yesterday and proclaimed that he is an innocent man whose case has been warped by political interference.

Campaigning journalist John Pilger, film-maker Ken Loach and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan where among six people who offered a £180,000 bail surety.

Speaking outside court, Pilger said he was “disappointed” at the decision to remand Assange in custody.

He said: “Julian Assange is being denied justice. It is very simple. Not necessarily in this jurisdiction, but if it goes to Sweden he will enter a chaotic system.

“A system where the senior prosecutor discharged his case a long time ago, in fact declared it ridiculous. It was brought back after a political intervention. It is an outrageous case.”

Asked more about the impact of politicians, Pilger added: “I do not know how many political influences; I know there was one, of course.

“But anybody who looks through the detail of the case in Sweden knows this should not have happened today.

“This is an innocent man. I am not going into detail of the case but this is a man who has made some very serious enemies for the very best of reasons and done a job of extraordinary journalism which benefits all of us.”

Frontline Club

Prior to his arrest Assange had been working at the journalists’ club, the Frontline Club, for “several months”, according to its founder.

Vaughan Smith, who started the club seven years ago, said he offered the Wikileaks boss an address for bail earlier today.

In a statement released last night, Smith said: “I attended court today to offer my support for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks on a point of principle.

“In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterised by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by WikiLeaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.”

He added that almost all of the more than 1,500 members of the Frontline Club were supportive of his stance.

“I am suspicious of the personal charges that have been made against Mr Assange and hope that this will be properly resolved by the courts.

‘Certainly no credible charges have been brought regarding the leaking of the information itself,” Smith said.

“I can confirm that Mr Assange has spent much of the last several months working from our facilities at the Frontline Club. Earlier today I offered him an address for bail.”

Outside court Stephens added that he believed British authorities would go to extreme lengths to ensure his client was “perfectly comfortable” during his time in jail.

While he is confident Assange’s time behind bars will be brief, he said he did not want to appear to be “too cocky”.

“I think a lot of people, including the police, thought that he would get bail today. They were very surprised he didn’t,” he said.

Praising District Judge Howard Riddle’s assessment of the case, Stephens said: “We are incredibly grateful to the judge for making it clear to the prosecutor that he thinks he wants to have a look at the evidence, to make assessments as to whether there is a real risk of conviction or not, because that will make a difference as to whether or not he wants to put him out on bail, or not, on the next occasion.”

Criticising Swedish authorities involved with the case, Stephens said: “It’s a persecution, not a prosecution.”

He maintained that while Assange was not prepared to go to Sweden to face alleged sexual assault claims, his client was prepared to meet the Swedish prosecutor in England.

“That, I think, is a reasonable approach,” he said.

Although Assange appeared to be a “nomadic wanderer”, Stephens said his client did have a fixed address – but was not prepared to disclose where it was.

He said: “He obviously works in a number of places, as any investigative journalist who travels the world while gathering stories does.”

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