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WikiLeaks' Assange walks free on bail

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Assange vows to continue work
  • NEW: Assange says he has "enough anger about the situation to last me 100 years"
  • Being in solitary confinement made Assange think of other prisoners, he says
  • Freeing Assange on bail will not affect the Swedish investigation, authorities there say
  • Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sex crimes

London (CNN) -- Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, walked out of London's High Court after being freed on bail Thursday, nine days after he was arrested for questioning about alleged sex crimes in Sweden.

His time in solitary confinement prompted him "to reflect on the condition of those people around the world also in solitary confinement ... in positions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people ... also need your attention and support," he said.

Assange thanked the public, the media, his lawyers, and the British justice system, saying, "If justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet."

Assange, 39, handed himself over to police in London last week. He was sought because Swedish prosecutors want to question him about sex charges unrelated to WikiLeaks.

A judge granted him bail on Tuesday, but lawyers representing Sweden immediately filed an appeal, keeping Assange behind bars until the High Court judge decided on the Swedish appeal.

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Assange won the appeal Thursday.

Assange's mother, Christine, said after the ruling that she could "not wait" to see him "and to hold him close."

"I had faith that the British justice system would do the right thing ... and that faith has been confirmed," she said outside the court.

Assange must stay at the mansion of a supporter outside London, report to the police daily, wear an electronic tag to monitor his location, and put up 200,000 pounds (about $310,000) in bail money, plus two 20,000-pound sureties (about $31,000 each), the judge ruled.

Judge Duncan Ouseley said he did not regard Assange as a fugitive and there was no concrete evidence to believe he would abscond.

Assange "clearly has some desire to clear his name," the judge said, adding that if he failed to appear in court, the "charges would always be hanging over his head."

Assange has the potential to flee, Ouseley found, but said if he did so, it would "diminish him in the eyes of his supporters."

Lawyers representing Swedish prosecutors had argued that no bail conditions would be satisfactory, prompting Assange's lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, to suggest derisively that they saw him as "some sort of Houdini character."

Granting bail "does not signify any change in the ongoing investigation," Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny said in a statement after the ruling, adding that extradition proceedings are in the hands of the British authorities, not the Swedes.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, which represented Swedish authorities in the fight over bail, said Thursday that Ny "fully supported" their decision to appeal Tuesday against granting Assange bail.

Vaughn Smith, who offered his mansion to satisfy court requirements that Assange have a permanent address, said the editor would be able to continue his WikiLeaks work from there.

He noted that the court had ordered Sweden to pay the cost of the appeal, "which to me suggests they shouldn't have appealed."

And he said the judge was very clear that Assange is not a fugitive.

"We're not harboring him, we're just giving him a bed," Smith said.

Smith will keep Assange "if not under house arrest, at least under mansion arrest," Robertson said at Tuesday's bail hearing.

After his arrival at Smith's Ellingham Hall in Suffolk, Assange told reporters that his "highest task" was to continue his work with WikiLeaks.

"Obviously, clearing my name is also important, and I will continue to do that, my legal team will continue to do that," he said. "We will press the Swedish government to provide us with evidence of the allegations, something that has been denied to date. I have yet to receive a single page of anything ever from this investigation."

He said his arrest "confirmed to me personally that we are on the right path and has given me enough anger about the situation to last me 100 years."

"Obviously there have been serious attempts to take down the content by taking us down as an organization and taking me down as an individual," he said.

Cheers of "Julian, Julian, Julian, out, out, out!" and "Exposing war crimes is no crime!" went up from his supporters outside the High Court after the decision was announced Thursday.

Prominent left-wing journalist John Pilger, an Assange backer, called the ruling "very good news but it should have happened a long time ago. This hearing was a waste of taxpayers' money."

And he warned about "the specter of Assange being extradited to the United States, where he could end up in a maximum security prison."

Stephens told journalists as he entered court Thursday that a number of people have offered to help pay Assange's bail, and that the money is "in the banking system." Socialite Jemima Khan and Pilger have previously offered money for his bail.

Assange is facing accusations of rape, sexual molestation and illegal use of force stemming from separate incidents in August in Stockholm. He has not been charged, but he could face two years in prison if convicted.

His lawyers deny the allegations and have vowed to fight any attempts at extradition.

The next hearing in the extradition case is scheduled for January 11.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he had authorized "significant" actions related to a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables, but has declined to elaborate.

Only a small fraction of the 250,000 U.S. State Department documents WikiLeaks says it has have been released, and more are being published daily.

U.S. authorities and other Western leaders say the documents' publication threatens lives and national security. WikiLeaks and its supporters say the public has a right to know what goes on behind diplomatic doors.

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks posted thousands of documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CNN's Atika Shubert, Peter Wilkinson, Jonathan Wald, Per Nyberg and Lianne Turner contributed to this report.

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