At the end of a day of dramatic developments, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Tuesday preparing to spend the night in judicial custody after being arrested by British police and denied bail following a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish authorities over allegations of a range of sexual offences.
He would remain in custody until December 14 pending proceedings to extradite him to Sweden, where he faces four charges relating to sexual offences, including one of rape, brought by two women.
Mr. Assange has denied the allegations and called them part of a “smear'' campaign because of his role in releasing secret American documents that have embarrassed Western governments.
During a brief appearance at Westminster Magistrates' Court, the 39-year-old Australian national, who is at the centre of an international row, said he would fight extradition. This was his first public appearance since his website started releasing leaked secret American diplomatic cables a week ago. He was greeted by a media scrum as he arrived at the court accompanied by his lawyers and Australian consular officials.
Much to the surprise of his supporters, Mr. Assange was refused bail even after a group of high-profile figures, including film-maker Ken Loach, journalist John Pilger and Jemima Khan, wife of former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, offered to put up bail sureties totalling some £180,000.
“I offered my support, as I believe that this is about the universal right of freedom of information and our right to be told the truth,” Ms. Khan said.
Judge Howard Riddle ruled that Mr. Assange might flee the jurisdiction if he was allowed bail. There were also fears that he “may be at risk from unstable persons.” Mr. Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens said he planned to apply again for bail. Calling the arrest a “political stunt,'' he said WikiLeaks would continue to release material in its possession. “We are on cable 301 and there are 250,000 secret cables,” he said.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson also had the same message. “WikiLeaks is operational…Any development with regard to Julian Assange will not change the plans we have with regard to the releases today and in the coming days,” he said.
Mr. Assange was arrested after he surrendered himself at a central London police station by prior arrangement.