Americas & Beyond
|WikiLeaks Chief Julian Assange Denied Bail After Arrest in England for Rape Charge in Sweden|
Michael Sheridan - NY Daily News
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December 07, 2010
WikiLeaks front man Julian Assange has been denied bail after surrendering to authorities in London early Tuesday morning.
|WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, back to camera, is driven into Westminster Magistrates Court in London. (Rousseau/AP)|
The hacker-turned-activist turned himself in to British police in response to a warrant issued by Sweden on charges of "rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion."
The judge refused to allow Assange out on bail because he had "substantial grounds" to believe the Australian skip out on future court appearances. The WikiLeaks founder will likely remain in a British jail until Dec. 14.
Assange has repeatedly insisted he is innocent of the crimes. The charges involve two unidentified women who said in past interviews that the 39-year-old refused to wear protection during sex or get tested for STDs.
This matter concerns a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex," and has turned into a "political stunt," said one of Assange's lawyers in the United Kingdom, Mark Stephens, MSNBC reports.
The WikiLeaks boss was taken into custody at 9:30 a.m. local time and appeared at Westminster Magistrate's Court later in the day, where he told the court he would fight extradition to Sweden.
Although his whistle-blower website has become infamous for spilling secrets, the privacy-obsessed Australian has kept himself hidden away for months, claiming to fear for his life due to his involvement with WikiLeaks.
"The threats against our lives are a matter of public record," Assange said recently in a Q&A session via London's The Guardian.
Assange also claims the sex charges against him are a carefully orchestrated plot to discredit him and his website.
"It is clearly a smear campaign," the former computer hacker told Al Jazeera in August. "The only question is who was involved."
The whistle-blower website, meanwhile, isn't changing its tune over the release of secret and classified documents.
"This will not change our operation," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, who also called the arrest an attack on the freedom of the media, according to The Associated Press.
In an editorial featured in The Australian on Tuesday, Assange does not address the rape charge but speaks out to defend WikiLeaks.
"WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism," he wrote. "We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true."
Assange also called the whistle-blower group "underdogs," and accused the Australian government of being slaves to the United States because it has failed to defend him, despite his being from Queensland.
"Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department," the open-government activist wrote.
The recent release of more than 250,000 classified documents and secret cables by WikiLeaks has drawn international criticism. Officials have called Assange a "terrorist," and have demanded criminal charges be brought against him and WikiLeaks.
msheridan(at)nydailynews.com; or follow him at Twitter.com/NYDNSheridan