WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to learn whether he is to remain in prison into the new year as British prosecutors attempt to prevent him being released on bail.
The 39-year-old will appear before the High Court in London as British lawyers acting for the Swedish authorities appeal against a decision to let him go free during extradition proceedings. Assange is wanted for alleged sex offences committed in Stockholm while he was visiting the city in August.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that it made the call to appeal against bail but would not comment on whether Sweden had any input in the decision.
A spokeswoman said: “It is standard practice on all extradition cases that decisions regarding bail are taken by the domestic prosecuting authority. It would not be practical for prosecutors in a foreign jurisdiction, who are neither present in court when decisions are made, nor familiar with the domestic laws concerning bail, to make such decisions.”
But Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens called the decision “highly irregular” and said British prosecutors had asked City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court for time to consult with Swedish authorities after bail was granted on December 14.
He said: “The question we have to ask is if they weren’t talking to the Swedes, who were they talking to? It’s highly irregular because, as (director of public prosecutions) Keir Starmer said on Radio 4 this morning, the CPS are supposed to act as the agents of the Swedish authorities and they appear to be acting without the knowledge of their director or the Swedes. It remains opaque and unclear as to who actually gave the order to oppose bail.”
In a statement on her website, Sweden’s director of prosecution Marianne Ny said: “At a hearing on Tuesday December 14, Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London decided that Julian Assange should be granted bail. The decision was appealed by the British prosecutor.
“As I have already stated, I cannot at the moment provide information concerning the development of the matter, as it is handled by British authorities.”
Bail conditions imposed at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court included the posting of a £200,000 cash deposit, with a further £40,000 guaranteed in two sureties of £20,000.
Assange is expected to appear in the dock at the Royal Courts of Justice in London for the appeal hearing, with every one of the courtroom’s 200 seats occupied by the parties and the world’s media. The application is being heard by Mr Justice Ouseley who last week, in another high-profile case, rejected an appeal by South African authorities and allowed bail pending extradition proceedings for Shrien Dewani, the husband of a woman murdered on honeymoon in South Africa.