Julian Assange Freed: Justice 'Is Not Dead Yet'

WikiLeaks founder free today on bond.

LONDON, Dec. 16, 2010— -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emerged from a London prison with his hand raised today, into the bright lights of camera flashes after he posted $315,000 bail stemming from sexual assault charges.

In his first appearance since his arrest early this week, Assange thanked his supporters for helping to raise the bail. He said his lawyers waged a "brave and ultimately successful fight... in the face of great difficulty and diversion" to free him.

"It's great to smell the fresh air of London again," he said. Assange thanked the British court system, saying, "If justice is not always the outcome, at least it is not dead yet."

Assange said his time in solitary confinement gave him a chance to reflect on people being held in worse conditions around the world.

"And with that, I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter," Assange said.

The judge denied an appeal against granting bail earlier today, saying he did not believe Assange would run if granted bail because that would make all his supporters look "naive, foolish and stupid."

Assange's mother was in the hearing today, along with Vaughn Smith, the man who offered Assange a place to stay in his sprawling 10-bedroom estate in England should he be freed.

Assange, who is at the center of controversy over posting more than a quarter-million secret U.S. documents online, had been held in a London prison on sexual assault charges including rape originating out of Sweden.

Several supporters offered to assist in paying Assange's bail, including documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, who pledged $20,000.

Though he is out of prison, Assange must surrender his passport and remain in the United Kingdom where he plans to stay with a friend. He will have an electronic tag to verify that he is at that address overnight and must daily report to police.

Assange had been held in solitary confinement -- for his own protection, the jail said -- in "the bottom of a Victorian prison," he said. His lawyers said he is being held in a wing normally reserved for convicted criminals, cut off from other prisoners and is only allowed a half hour a day outside the cell.

U.S. Criminal Investigation of Document Drop

Though he's currently being held on the sexual assault charges, Assange could also be the target of coming espionage charges from the U.S., one of his lawyers told ABC News last week.

The timing of the arrest earlier this week led a WikiLeaks spokesperson, Stephens and hundreds of Assange's supporters to claim the sex charges were part of a political effort to marginalize the WikiLeaks founder in the face of the document drop, which has proved an embarrassment and potential security risk for the U.S. government.

But a lawyer for the two Swedish women accusing Assange said the charges are in no way politically motivated and the woman are angry at that suggestion.

Assange has denied the sex crimes charges and after his arrest, Stephens told ABC News Assange is ready "to vindicate himself and clear his good name."

In a jailhouse statement passed through his mother to an Australian news station, Assange reportedly said that his "convictions are unfaltering."

"I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them," Assange wrote, according to a Australia's 7 News Tuesday. "If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the release of the documents had put the United States at risk and said he authorized a criminal investigation into Assange.

"The lives of people who work for the American people has been put at risk; the American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that are, I believe, arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can," Holder said Tuesday. "We have a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature. I authorized just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable, as they -- as they should be."

Outspoken critics of the document drop, including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said they believe the formerly classified material is more than just embarrassing for the slights against foreign leaders, but potentially disastrous for U.S. strategy abroad.

"We have gotten indications that there is at least some change in how individuals and governments cooperate with us, and share information," Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said last week. There's a vague "sense that there has been some pulling back because of these revelations."

Speaking a press conference Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the leak could "create potential dangers for our friends and partners."

ABC News' Mary Plummer contributed to this report.