UK court refuses bail to WikiLeak’s Assange

Julian Assange was refused bail by UK’s Westminster magistrates court on Tuesday, where the charges were read out to him a short while ago, setting off a judicial process leading to his possible extradition to Sweden.

A Guardian live blog on Assange’s arrest said he was refused bail, and will be remanded in custody till 14 December. It said Assange told the court he intends to fight his extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.

The Guardian reported that a legal affairs commentator, Joshua Rozenberg, who was in the court, said charges were read out to Assange. “In one of the cases Assange was alleged to have had sex with a woman who was asleep, the court heard, according to Rozenberg. The other case allegedly involved coercion…” the paper reported.

The prosecution, representing the Swedish authorities, objected to bail on grounds that Assange failed to surrender and that he should stay in custody for his own protection, while
Assange’s legal team said the “case would not finish today”.

The Sky News said Assange had sought Australian consular assistance and that staff of the Australian High Commission were with him inside the court.

The Magistrates court has 21 days to start an extradition hearing, which will decide if Assange will be sent off to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on rape charges. Britain’s Guardian newspaper said his appearance at the court today will focus primarily on formalities, including establishing his identity and determining whether he consents to the extradition.

The Guardian said his lawyers were had reportedly put together a generous bail package, including a security of at least 100,000 pounds and a surety in the hopes that a bail plea would be accepted.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Assange was quoted by Associated Press as saying that the whistle-blower will vigorously fight extradition from Britain to Sweden.

Legal observers also point out that the direction and result of the trial will also be a straw in the wind as far as his chances of being extradited to the United States are concerned.
“If extradited to Sweden under the EAW – a process which could be concluded quickly under the fast-track procedure – Assange will be vulnerable to other extradition requests from countries including the US,” according to The Guardian’s live blog on Assange’s arrest.

The chances of the U.S. seeking extradition of Assange gained momentum as a top lawmaker cranked up calls for his trial under the espionage law. Assange ‘should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage, the Democratic chair of the US Senate’s intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, said.

Reports said Assange’s lawyers will argue that the UK extradition is unfair. “… Assange’s legal team remains determined to fight his extradition on grounds ranging from the failure of authorities to provide him with details of the warrant issued by Sweden, and human rights grounds – including that the WikiLeaks founder may be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden, and that he risks not facing a fair trial,” The Guardian reported.

London Metropolitan police said Assange was arrested in the morning. According to media reports, Assange walked into a London police station where he was formally arrested.

Wikileaks put out another appeal for funding even as Assange was inside the court awaiting the start of proceedings. However, the channels of financial transaction were shrinking for Wikileaks with Visa announcing it will cut off payments to Wikileaks through it after similar moves by MasterCard and PayPal.

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