A British judge today ordered WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange held without bail today on four charges related to a Swedish sex crimes investigation. Whether Assange will be held to account for the release of confidential U.S. documents is yet to be seen.
Assange, an Australian hacker, drew the ire of the United States and some in the international community after his organizaton released over 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Some of them were embarrassing to U.S. and foreign officials; others related to sensitive sites vital to America's national security.
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The Magistrate's Court judge in London ordered him held on the international arrest warrant, saying that Assange has the means and the cause to fail to surrender. The decision prompted an audible gasp in the courtroom. Assange's lawyers had expressed confidence that he would be granted bail, even offering conditions including wearing an electronic tag.
Seated in the court's dock enclosed in thick glass, a smiling Assange waved to his supporters in the gallery, the first time he has appeared in public in 31 days. Assange was hesitant to reveal his address, publicly offering only an address in Victoria, Australia. Assange's lawyers told the judge that he will provide a U.K. address, but only in private for his safety and privacy.
Assange listened as prosecutors read charges, detailing the accusations from two Swedish women that include rape, sexual molestation and coercion.
One woman, identified as Miss A, claims that on Aug. 14, Assange "forcibly parted her legs, preventing her from moving," "then had intercourse without a condom" despite her protests. On Aug 18, he allegedly coerced her again.
A second woman, labeled Miss W, said on Aug. 17 that Assange had unprotected sex with her while she was asleep.
Assange has denied the sex crimes charges and after his arrest, Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, told ABC News Assange is ready "to vindicate himself and clear his good name."
Assange, 39, told the judge he would fight extradition to Sweden. British legal experts tell ABC News that what would normally be a straightforward extradition under British law could be complicated by the prospect of an eventual extradition to the U.S. from Sweden to face charges related to WikiLeaks.
Supporters, including heiress Jemima Khan and writer John Pilger, had offered to post bond of $150,000 but the judge brushed that aside.
Some in the courtroom smiled as the judge said the case is "not about Wikipedia," failing to correct his mistake. "It's about serious sexual offenses on three separate occasions, involving two separate victims," the judge said. "Extremely serious allegations."
Unless lawyers work out an agreement behind closed doors, Assange will next appear in court on Dec. 14 to argue again for release on bail.
Today's arrest will not stop the release of documents through WikiLeaks, a spokesman for the organization said.
"WikiLeaks is operational. We are continuing on the same track as laid out before," Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesman for the group, told The Associated Press. "Any development with regards to Julian Assange will not change the plans we have with regards to the releases today and in the coming days."