Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has been given a court date for a hearing into whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault charges.
Wikileaks editor Julian Assange has been given a court date for a hearing into whether he will be extradited to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault charges. Photo credit: BBC
Assange appeared at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south London on Tuesday for a management hearing into the extradition case. After hearing submissions, Judge Nicholas Evans set the date for the extradition hearing itself for 7 and 8 February.
The defence team asked that Assange's bail conditions be relaxed on those dates to make it easier for him to attend court in Woolwich, to which the judge agreed. Under the terms of his bail, Assange must keep to a curfew at Ellingham Hall in Suffolk, home of Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith, and wear an electronic tag. On the 6 and 7 February, he will be allowed to stay at the Frontline Club in London.
"I'm sure my members will welcome him," Smith told ZDNet UK outside court. The Frontline Club, an organisation dedicated to independent journalism, provides facilities such as a clubroom, bedrooms and a restaurant for members.
European Arrest Warrant
Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan Police on 7 December, after Swedish authorities issued a European Arrest Warrant. The warrant calls for him to appear in Sweden, where the authorities want to question him in relation to allegations of sexual coercion and rape.
On 7 December, Assange was remanded in custody by City of Westminster chief magistrate Howard Riddle, who deemed him a flight risk. He was granted bail at a subsequent hearing by the same court. A High Court judge then rejected an appeal by prosecutors against Assange's release, upheld the bail and freed him.
Whistleblower site Wikileaks is in the process of publishing a series of confidential US embassy documents that have proved somewhat embarrassing to the US government. As a consequence, it could face criminal charges in the US. Recently, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order to see non-public data in the Twitter accounts of Assange and other Wikileaks supporters.
"We are happy with today's outcome... Our work continues unabated," Assange said outside court. "We are stepping up our publication."
Assange spent the Christmas holidays at Ellingham Hall, where he had a "pleasant" time, according to Smith. However, the electronic tag proved a restriction, Smith said. "I don't think he liked it very much," he said. "It's not a comfortable thing to have on, and it's a technological prison."
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