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Assange can be freed on bail, court rules

U.K. prosecutors lose their bid to prevent Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, from being released on bail while his extradition to Sweden on sex crimes charges is determined.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read
Julian Assange and his bail figure
Julian Assange had been lying low for months as the WikiLeaks saga unfolded, but this week he's been the center of worldwide attention in a U.K. court. CBSNews.com/Screenshot by Jonathan Skillings, CNET

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange can be freed on bail following a ruling from a U.K. court today.

Prosecutors lost their effort to prevent Assange from being released on bail while his extradition to Sweden on sex crimes allegations is determined, according to BBC News.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, believes Assange could be released as soon as today, according to the U.K.'s Guardian. A representative from Stephens' law office told CNET by phone today that Assange's release is more likely to happen tomorrow, but it could be later today.

"Our main focus is delight and joy in the fact that [Assange] is going to be released in the very foreseeable future," Stephens said.

Assange was actually granted bail on Tuesday but remained in jail following an appeal of the ruling by prosecutors. The decision to uphold his bail and pave the way for his release was made by Justice Duncan Ouseley of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

In its ruling, the court agreed with the decision made Tuesday by the lower court to release Assange on bail of 200,000 pounds (around $316,000), with a further 40,000 pounds in sureties. Supporters have offered to put up sureties for the entire 240,000 pounds, the BBC said.

Ouseley expressed concern that some of Assange's supporters could have offered sureties in support of concepts of civil rights and freedom of speech, rather than after judging Assange's character and likelihood of flight.

"The point that troubles me most is whether there are supporters who have regard for [Assange's] work for Wikileaks as something which would be impaired by the extradition process, and who would present [flight by Assange] as a righteous and justified act," Ouseley said.

Stephens confirmed ahead of today's court proceedings that the bail had already been raised by Assange supporters and "appears to be in the banking system," according to the Guardian.

Further, Assange's bail hearing on Tuesday called for him to surrender his passport, wear an electronic tracker, provide a U.K. address, and report to police on a daily basis. Upon his release, he'll reportedly be staying at a country mansion in Suffolk owned by Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline club in London.

Stephens blamed the appeal of Tuesday's bail directly on Swedish authorities, calling it part of a "continuing vendetta by the Swedes," according to the BBC. In his response to the Royal Courts' ruling, Stephens said that "we have won costs today but they should be paid by Sweden not the hard-pressed Crown Prosecution Service."

But Sweden was adamant in its belief that Assange is a flight risk. Representing the Swedish authorities, Gemma Lindfield, a British-based criminal practitioner, told the judge that if Assange were freed, he had the "means and ability" to hide among the many WikiLeaks supports both in the U.K. and other countries, the BBC said.

Assange surrendered to authorities in London last week

for possible extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on accusations of rape and sexual molestation. Assange has denied the charges, which his supporters assert have been trumped up in an attempt to silence the WikiLeaks leader, who has gotten into hot water with the U.S. government over WikiLeaks' publication of classified State Department and military documents.

Updated throughout the morning with more details and background information.

Karen Friar and Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK contributed to this report.