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WikiLeaks Founder Arrested In Britain, Denied Bail

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 07.12.2010 16:19

The founder of WikiLeaks, the website that has made public hundreds of previously confidential U.S. diplomatic messages, has been denied bail after his arrest by British police.

Julian Assange was arrested this morning when he appeared at a London police station by appointment.

He was arrested on a European warrant issued by Sweden, where he is wanted on allegations of sexual crimes.

Assange later appeared before a magistrate's court, where he was denied bail ahead of an extradition hearing. He was remanded in custody until December 14.

Assange was arrested on an international warrant issued by Sweden, where he is wanted on allegations of sexual crimes. The 39-year-old Australian denies the charges, and his lawyer has said the case has "political" motivations.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, expressed disappointment, but said moves against his client and WikiLeaks would not stop the release of more secret documents.

"I am advised that WikiLeaks can continue to exist, they have a number of operatives, they have many thousands of journalists in a virtual journalistic community around the world and they will continue," Stephens said.

"We are only at cable 391 today, we will see the rest of those 250,000 cables coming out so that full information is available."

Assange has denied the sex charges, which include rape, saying they are part of a smear campaign against him.

Assange and WikiLeaks have faced increasing challenges, including hacking attacks and the closure of some bank accounts and websites, since WikiLeaks began releasing some of the tens of thousands of confidential U.S. diplomatic messages that it has obtained.

The latest blow came even as Assange appeared in court, when Visa said it had suspended all payments to WikiLeaks, following a similar, earlier, decision by the Internet payment service PayPal.

The leaks have angered Washington, which has condemned them as illegal.

Assange's arrest was welcomed by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who heard the news on a visit to Kabul.

A spokesman for WikiLeaks said Assange's arrest was an attack on media freedom but wouldn't stop the release of more secret documents.

NATO's Baltic Plans

Earlier, the latest diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that Russia's war with Georgia in 2008 influenced the NATO alliance to upgrade its plans to defend the Baltic states and Poland.

They show a secret plan called "Eagle Guardian" was worked out to defend Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland against any threat from Russian forces.

In reporting on the leaked documents, the British daily "The Guardian" notes that this is the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Western allies are known to have drawn up special military plans to defend the most vulnerable parts of Eastern Europe against a potential Russian theat.

The newspaper reports that nine NATO army divisions -- U.S., British, German, and Polish -- have been designated for combat operations in the event of any armed aggression by Russia. Naval assault forces have also been designated.

And in addition, in the case of Poland, the cables say the United States offered to deploy special naval forces to Baltic ports and to put F-16 fighter aircraft into Poland.

The cables say the military plans should be not be discussed publicly as they might lead to an "unnecessary increase" in NATO-Russia tensions. According to informed sources quoted by "The Guardian," NATO leaders endorsed the plan quietly at last month's Lisbon summit of the alliance.

written by Breffni O'Rourke, with agency reports

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/wikileaks_assange_arrest/2241157.html

Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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