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Assange to run WikiLeaks from his gilded cage

News18test sharma |

Updated: December 17, 2010, 4:58 PM IST
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Assange to run WikiLeaks from his gilded cage
The Georgian mansion of Ellingham Hall, owned by a loyal WikiLeaks supporter, will be temporary home to Assange.

London: Nestled among greens on a rolling 650 acre estate in Norfolk sits the Georgian mansion of Ellingham Hall, owned by a loyal supporter of online whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and temporary home to its founder Julian Assange.

Ellingham Hall, a 10-bedroom mansion, is owned by Vaughan Smith, a former army captain and WikiLeaks sympathizer, who was approved to provide surety for Assange.

Assange will observe a curfew during his stay at the mansion and be electronically tagged. He will have to report daily to a police station. A 200,000 pounds security, raised by his supporters, has been paid to the court.

And in the next few days, as he awaits the beginning of his extradition case early next year, the serene mansion will be the centre of hectic activities as fans, supporters and the media swoop down to track the man that single-handedly took on the world's biggest powers.

WikiLeaks still in business

It seems it is business as usual for WikiLeaks as of now. There are no restrictions on his access to the internet or communications at the sprawling mansion. As a guest of honour for Smith, who is also the founder of the Frontline media club in London, where Assange previously lived for a while, he is among friends and family at his temporary home while he prepares himself for the Swedish extradition case.

According to media reports, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson seems to have made it clear that the broadband is as good as any Ellingham Hall.

For the nomadic Assange, who is known to have changed mobile phones as he moved from one location to another, the Georgian Ellingham Hall is a far cry from the camping and scrounging he has had to do to escape conviction from an administration hot on his trail as he spilleds secrets on his whistle-blowing website.

And it seems that the defiant but tired Assange has no intention of stopping his work at WikiLeaks. He said that WikiLeaks was a "resilient organisation" that could "withstand decapitation attacks".

He has been warned that he is almost certain to be extradited to Sweden to face sex assault allegations.

As well as the prospect of a trial in Sweden, there is a growing consensus among US constitutional lawyers and other legal experts that Assange will be indicted by Washington.

Last week, the City of Westminster magistrates remanded Assange in custody because they said he posed too high a danger of absconding. On Tuesday his lawyers won a reversal of that decision, with a judge granting him bail on tough conditions. The Crown Prosecution Service appealed.

On Thursday, Justice Ouseley rejected the CPS argument that there were no conditions a judge could impose that would stop Assange from fleeing. He ordered the CPS to pay costs but imposed new conditions on Assange.

A long legal battle lies ahead of Assange.

On Channel 4 News, Assange said he was the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by the US with the assistance of the Swedish intelligence service. "There is an ongoing attempt by the US to extradite me to the US and that extradition is much more likely to occur if I am already in Sweden."

He said his Swedish legal team had now been passed evidence relating to the rape charges against him. "There has never been a single page provided to me in English and, until two weeks ago, not a single page whatsoever provided in any form to my Swedish counsel - even in Swedish. This is a clear, clear abuse of process."

"My lawyers informed me this afternoon there will be another smear attempt relating to this investigation some time tomorrow," he said.

Speaking outside Ellingham Hall later, Assange said his lawyers in Sweden had got hold of 100 pages of material related to the allegations but he had yet to receive a comprehensive English translation.

"We have heard today from one of my US lawyers, yet to be confirmed, but a serious matter, that there may be a US indictment for espionage for me, coming from a secret US grand jury investigation," he told Sky TV.

"During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support."

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of cables to WikiLeaks, has been held in solitary confinement at Quantico, Virginia.

First Published: December 17, 2010, 4:58 PM IST
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