Julian Assange leaves London jail on bail

WikiLeaks' now-famous spokesman emerges from Wandsworth Prison and tells crowd of journalists and supporters that he hopes to "continue" his work.

Declan McCullagh
Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
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A beaming Julian Assange emerged from solitary confinement in London's Wandsworth Prison today and said he plans to continue his work as the most visible face of WikiLeaks.

The Australian programmer, computer hacker, and document-leaking evangelist told a scrum of journalists and supporters that "I hope to continue my work," and insisted he was innocent of the odd sexual allegations that led Swedish authorities to seek his extradition.

"To the British justice system itself, where if justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet," Assange said. (Here's audio.)

Earlier today, Justice Duncan Ouseley of the Royal Courts of Justice in London rejected prosecutors' efforts to keep Assange locked up while the extradition proceedings continue. Bail was set at 200,000 British pounds, or about $316,000, and Assange will be under strict limits on his movements until then.

For most of the day, it was unclear whether Assange would be released in time to make his evening curfew in the country manor known as Ellingham Hall, a few hours' drive outside of London, that a supporter has made available.

The property is owned by British media pioneer Vaughan Smith, who told the U.K.'s Independent newspaper that: "Having watched him give himself up last week to the British justice system, I took the decision that I would do whatever else it took to ensure that he is not denied his basic rights as a result of the anger of the powerful forces he has enraged."

During his supervised release, Assange will be required to report to police every evening and be at Ellingham Hall daily for four hours during the day and four hours at night. His next court date has been scheduled for January 11.

Assange is wanted in Sweden for "overraskningssex," which his British lawyers say translates to "sex by surprise." One Swedish woman claims Assange had sex with her after a condom broke, and another accused him of having sex without one in the first place.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is piecing together a case against him for publishing classified Army and State Department files.

A CNET analysis this week shows that Assange could be held liable under the Espionage Act, but that the 1917-era law itself could violate the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press. Justice Department prosecutors are attempting to build a conspiracy charge against Assange in hopes of avoiding some of the free speech problems, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of being a source for WikiLeaks, is being held in the U.S. Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., in "inhumane conditions," according to a report at Salon.com.