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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be freed on bail

RIA Novosti

18:56 16/12/2010 LONDON, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail at the London's High Court on Thursday, world media said.

Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has provoked U.S. rage by releasing diplomatic documents, was to be freed on $320,000 bail on Tuesday but remained in jail pending an appeal against the London City of Westminster Magistrates' Court ruling. The appeal was rejected by a senior judge on Thursday.

Lawyers for the WikiLeaks founder said he would be released Thursday evening or Friday morning once the formalities are completed.

NBC News quoted the Swedish Prosecutors Office as saying it was the British authorities that appealed the Westminster court decision.

"We don't have the right to appeal within the U.K.," the prosecutors office's spokeswoman Karin Rosander said.

"The decision to appeal against the granting of bail to Assange was entirely a British decision," Sky News TV Channel cited the spokeswoman as saying. "The Swedish authorities had nothing to do with it. It is standard practice on all extradition cases that decisions regarding bail are taken by the domestic prosecuting authority."

The exact conditions of Assange's bail are not yet known, however they are expected to be stringent. On Tuesday, the bail was granted demanding Assange, who is an Australian national, to surrender his passport, submit to monitoring by electronic tag and to stay at a temporary address submitted to officials by his lawyers.

The United States could soon press espionage charges against Assange for authorizing the disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic and military reports, his lawyer said last week.

World leaders and diplomats have downplayed the impact of the leak of more than 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks site, but many have questioned the benefit of the project, alleging that some of the leaks could "threaten lives."

Assange was arrested in London on December 7. His extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on sex assault charges, is pending. Assange denies the allegations and is fighting the extradition, while his lawyers express fears that he could be then extradited to the United States, where Assange could face the death penalty for violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.

An unidentified Kremlin official told RIA Novosti that Assange should be nominated for the Nobel Prize.

He topped an online poll for Time's Person of the Year, but the magazine on Wednesday named Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for its annual award, which was won by Vladimir Putin in 2007.

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