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Julian Assange Refused Bail over Rape Allegations
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief remanded in custody until 14 December over claims he committed sex offences in Sweden
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was today refused bail and remanded in custody until 14 December over claims he committed sex offences in Sweden.
Assange told City of Westminster magistrates court today that he intended to fight his extradition, setting up what could be a long legal battle.
The 39-year-old Australian turned himself in to Scotland Yard this morning to face a Swedish arrest warrant.
He was asked by the court whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion, involving two women.
Assange said: "I understand that and I do not consent."
Assange denies the allegations, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August. He and his lawyers claim the accusations stem from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex", and have said the case has taken on political overtones.
Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny has rejected those claims.
Journalist John Pilger, filmmaker Ken Loach, and socialite Jemima Khan were among six people in court willing to offer surety.
They all offered at least £20,000 each. An anonymous individual offered £60,000.
But District Judge Howard Riddle refused the WikiLeaks founder bail on the grounds that he had access to financial means and might fail to surrender.
The judge said these were "serious allegations against someone who has comparatively weak community ties in this country and the means and ability to abscond".
But he rejected the prosecution claim that bail should be rejected on the grounds of Assange's safety.
Assange appeared in court in blue suit with a white shirt. Asked to give an address he replied: "PO Box 4080." When the question was asked again, he said: "Do you want it for correspondence or for some other reason?" Later the WikiLeaks founder, who was accompanied by officials from the Australian high commission, gave an address in his native Australia.
Gemma Lindfield, for the Swedish authorities, told the court Assange was wanted in connection with four allegations.
She said the first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of "unlawful coercion" on the night of 14 August in Stockholm.
The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.
The second charge alleged Assange "sexually molested" Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her "express wish" one should be used.
The third charge claimed Assange "deliberately molested" Miss A on 18 August "in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity".
The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on 17 August without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.
A European arrest warrant issued by the Swedish authorities was received by officers at the Metropolitan police extradition unit last night.
An earlier warrant, issued last month, was not valid as officials had failed to fill in the form properly.
Assange has been at the centre of an international row since WikiLeaks released a huge tranche of US embassy cables, in conjunction with five news organisations including the Guardian, at the beginning of last week.
The sex offence allegations are a separate case. "This case is not about WikiLeaks," Riddle told the court.
WikiLeaks faces increasing problems continuing to operate. Today Visa said it had suspended all payments to the organisation "pending further investigation", while MasterCard said it was "taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products".
Earlier today Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, welcomed Assange's arrest. Speaking to reporters on a visit to US troops in Afghanistan, Gates said: "I hadn't heard that, but that sounds like good news to me."
Assange defended the leak of the embassy cables in an article in the Australian today, saying: "The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth."