After nine days in jail, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail Thursday in a politically charged case concerning alleged sex crimes in Sweden.
A high-court judge in London upheld an earlier decision to allow Assange to remain free while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him over allegations of molestation, unlawful coercion and rape stemming from encounters he had with two women in August.
Assange, 39, can now swap what his lawyer calls the “Dickensian conditions” of a south London jail for the tony comforts of a country mansion owned by a friend, where the high-court judge agreed that he could stay while out on bail. But he must surrender his passport, submit to monitoring by electronic tag, abide by a curfew and report to the police daily.
Also, he must post bail of $312,000, to be paid in cash. Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, said the money was available, pledged by various supporters, and that Assange was likely to go free either late Thursday or early Friday, once formalities were completed.
“We’re utterly delighted with the result here today,” Stephens told reporters, adding: “He will not be going back to that Victorian prison.”
Assange has been in the spotlight since his whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks, began releasing a cache of secret documents from the U.S. State Department last month, angering American officials and other nations around the world.
He denies any wrongdoing in his liaisons with the two women and says the case against him is politically motivated, possibly at the direction of the U.S. government.
Swedish prosecutors reject that accusation and say their desire to question Assange has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or its recent revelations.
Assange turned himself in to police in London on Dec. 7 after Britain was served with a European warrant for his arrest.