The Guardian’s live blog on the events leading up to and including the arrest of Julian Assange. (The time listed before the entries is local British time):
10.55pm: Spiegel Online has published a brilliant interview with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, an advisor to the president of Iran who is amusingly sceptical about the origins of the WikiLeaks documents:
Spiegel Online: But the diplomatic reports were published against Washington’s will and are damaging to the United States. The WikiLeaks disclosures are not a State Department PR campaign.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashai: Are you sure about that? How, then, did WikiLeaks gain access to the documents?
Spiegel: Presumably through a US Army private who had access to a central government database and has since been arrested.
Mashai: Do you believe that? Then you must be very naïve indeed. No, the United States is behind this deliberate leak. The Americans are trying to paint the world in black and white. They underscore the differences among nations and want to show everyone that peace is only possible in cooperation with them.
Spiegel: Do you question the authenticity of the more than 250,000 documents?
Mashai: I don’t want to get into individual documents and their authenticity. But I have no doubt that a US government plan is behind this disclosure. When someone wants to suggest something, they include fake information with real information so as to create a certain impression. That’s why each country has to analyze the documents that relate to it, which is what our experts in Tehran are doing now.
Spiegel: In other words, you do take the embassy reports very seriously.
Mashai: We are only examining them to figure out the Americans’ tricks.
10.37pm: Exploding the idea that the US embassy cables don’t show duplicity by US diplomats – the Politco’s Josh Gerstein reveals how the WikiLeaks cables catch State Department spokesman PJ Crowley being economical with the truth.
Gerstein points out this transcript of a public news briefing by Crowley on 15 December last year:
Q: Is the US involved in any military operations in Yemen?
Crowley: But we – those kinds of reports keep cropping up. We do not have a military role in this conflict.
That’s clear, isn’t it? Except that the US embassy cables show the opposite. Here’s the Guardian’s coverage of the Yemen cables:
While Saleh’s government publicly insists its own forces are responsible for counter-terrorism operations, the cables detail how the president struck a secret deal to allow the US to carry out cruise missile attacks on [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] targets. The first strike in December last year, which killed dozens of civilians along with wanted jihadis, was presented by Saleh as Yemen’s own work, supported by US intelligence.
10.12pm: The Guardian’s Esther Addley writes a clear and comprehensive article on the sex charges that Julian Assange now faces, a must-read for those wanting to know more about the allegations and what they mean:
If the WikiLeaks controversy has seemed ferocious in its intensity to date, the fact that Assange is tonight in custody as an accused rapist means that the political, technological and moral culture wars that have been skirmishing for months around the website have reached a new pitch of vitriol, in which conspiracy theories, slander and misogyny have become every bit as central to the debate as high-minded principles of justice or freedom of information.
9.51pm: Professor Emily Bell, formerly of the Guardian, has this analysis of the dramatic impact of the WikiLeaks deluge on the media:
If you follow the latest cache of diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks and reported by the Guardian, The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) and others it is impossible not to conclude that this is a pivotal moment for journalism, its teaching and its practice.
In her piece Bell asks some of the most difficult questions raised for the media, in both old and new iterations:
How many news organisations now feel differently about how to host and serve content across the web in the wake of Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) using its commercial prerogative to kick Wikileaks off its servers? How many correspondents and editors would balk at ruining long term relationships with the State Department to publish classified material of the leaked cables-type?
9.43pm: The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill has this bombshell revelation from the cables:
Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
How’s that “these cables are all old news” argument working out?
9.38pm: The Guardian’s latest WikiLeaks coverage looks at what US diplomats think about Muammar Gaddafi, describing the Libyan leader as a “mercurial and eccentric” figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing, acts on his whims and irritates his friends and enemies.
9.33pm: Back to the US embassy cables themselves – the Guardian’s David Leigh has the cables revealing that the Lockerbie bomber was released after the British government became concerned by Libya’s “thuggish” threats:
The British government’s deep fears that Libya would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died in a Scottish prison are revealed in secret US embassy cables which show London’s full support for the early release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, made explicit and “thuggish” threats to halt all trade deals with Britain and harass embassy staff if Megrahi remained in jail, the cables show. At the same time “a parade of treats” was offered by Libya to the Scottish devolved administration if it agreed to let him go, though the cable says they were turned down.
9.02pm: With the US government championing World Press Freedom Day while also trying to squash WikiLeaks – Jeroen Kraan gets in touch: “Check out the World Press Freedom Day Facebook page. Commenters are having a ball, as you’d expect.”
And indeed, so they are:
“Will you be inviting Jullian Assange ? He’s done some fantastic work in this area,” wonders one. “This reminds me of the time Iran tried to join the UN’s womens’ rights groups,” writes another. Jeroen himself comments: “Stephen Colbert, you can admit you’re behind this event now.”
Meanwhile, BoingBoing offers its version of the State Department’s seal (above).
8.56pm: So what legal action can the US department of justice actually take against WikiLeaks and Julian Assange? NBC’s Pete Williams has thoughts:
What did Attorney General Eric Holder mean when he said Monday that “there are other statutes, other tools that we have at our disposal,” beyond the laws against espionage, that could be used to prosecute Julian Assange?
8.38pm: Here’s a statement by the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger on our plans to keep publishing the US embassy cables:
“The charges [against Julian Assange] relate to alleged sex offences in Sweden and appear to have no bearing on the original leak of the US embassy cables, or on the Guardian’s publication of the material. We have been told by WikiLeaks that Mr Assange’s arrest will not affect plans for the publication of further cables.”
8.23pm: So where was Julian Assange staying while in London? Vaughan Smith of the Frontline Club reveals all:
I can confirm that Mr Assange has spent much of the last several months working from our facilities at the Frontline Club. Earlier today I offered him an address for bail.
The Frontline Club is near Paddington station in west London, founded in 2003 as a home for foreign correspondents and other journalists by Vaughn Smith, and has a fine restaurant as well as hosting regular debates and media events.
Much of the recent footage of Assange was shot during his press conferences at the club, especially the briefing he held earlier this year when WikiLeaks released its cache of classified material from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Smith says he attended today’s court appearance to show his support for Assange and WikiLeaks on a point of principle:
“In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterised by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by Wikileaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.”
8.09pm: Hold the front page: Sarah Palin reacts via Twitter to an article by Julian Assange in Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian (I think that sentence may win a prize in online news buzzword bingo).
Someone making things up again? Keep seeing this quote attributed to me. Huh? Wikileaks Assange on Sarah Palin’s Criticism http://bit.ly/dXP9za
We’ll try and translate that into English but Palin links to a National Review Online piece that quotes Assange’s comment piece: “Sarah Palin says I should be ‘hunted down like Osama bin Laden’.”
As the NRO writer Jim Geraghty points out, Assange has misquoted Palin there. What she actually said was: “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?” And I think we still count OBL as an al-Qaida leader.
To be fair, Palin did say that Assange should be “pursued with the same urgency” as OBL. So if she meant Assange should be “fruitlessly hunted for nine years without success,” then yes, Assange did misquote her.
7.55pm: My colleague Ewen MacAskill points us towards these quotes from State Department flack PJ Crowley, suggesting that foreign governments are getting cold feet about talking to their US counterparts in the light of the WikiLeaks cables:
Crowley told journalists today:
“We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats… We’re conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room.”
The Associated Press reports Crowley’s remarks that the extent of the damage remains to be seen but that it will complicate the US’s diplomatic efforts “for a period of time”.
“Obviously, it will be something that we will be watching to see if particular diplomats are frozen out in countries depending on their pique over what has been revealed,” AP quoted Crowley as saying.
7.51pm: Last question being taken at Obama’s press conference – and not a single journalist raised WikiLeaks or the US embassy cables. But why ask about the biggest story of the year when you can instead talk inside baseball about Republicans versus Democrats?
7.41pm: So far all the Obama press conference questions have been on yesterday’s tax cut deal with the Republicans.
7.25pm: President Obama speaking now – it’s all about the tax deal announced last night so far but there may be questions regarding WikiLeaks since this is the first time journalists have had an opportunity to ask Obama directly.
7.09pm: Obama is holding a press conference in the White House briefing room in 10 minutes – and surely even the self-absorbed White House press corps will have something to ask about the US embassy cables and WikiLeaks?
On the other hand, a tweet from the briefing room suggests otherwise:
“The chatter in here awaiting Obama’s presser is about the WH Xmas party. Hot topic: can you pub your party pics on facebook?”
7pm: The joke of the week (so far) comes from Ben Yarrow’s Twitter account:
6.48pm: Remember how a minor branch of Columbia University told its students not to access the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks? Well Philip Crowley – Mr World Press Freedom Day – of the State Department says it got carried away. The AP reports:
“Spokesman PJ Crowley said Tuesday the department had not issued any guidelines to private citizens on how to deal with the documents, which are still considered classified. He said department employees have been told not to download the material to their classified computer systems. He said that would create security concerns.
“We have given instructions to our employees here because we are treating these documents as still classified, which means if you download these documents from an outside website to our unclassified system, it creates a security concern,” Crowley told reporters.
“Our instructions are to protect our unclassified network, not mix classified and unclassified information on that network,” he said. “We do not control private Internet access. We do not control private networks. We have issued no authoritative instructions to people who are not employees of the Department of State.””
6.45pm: My colleagues Sam Jones tells me Julian Assange’s lawyers have confirmed their client is behind bars in Wandsworth Prison. As mentioned before, it is a typically delightful example of Victorian prison architecture.
Update: a reader emails –
“After seeing Wandsworth I bet Swedish prisons have suddenly got a lot more attractive to Mr Assange.”
Yes, although compared to the ADX Florence super-max Federal prison in Colorado, HM Wandsworth would feel like a Club Med.
6.42pm: Speaking of Senator Joe Lieberman’s one-man war against WikiLeaks – which mainly consists of Joe going on TV – here’s a clip of the Fox News interview referred to earlier.
6.39pm: BoingBoing and others are flagging up the remarks by Senator Joe Lieberman that the New York Times may be the subject of investigation by the Department of Justice with a view to prosecution under the espionage laws.
It’s worth remembering that since the US government can’t find a way to use the current espionage laws against Julian Assange, the chances of it prosecuting the New York Times probably approaches zero. But Lieberman’s words will have a chilling effect on news organisations everywhere.
6.24pm: This just in: sources are telling the Guardian that Julian Assange is now being held in the remand wing of Wandsworth Prison in London. (This is unconfirmed, so pinch of salt there.)
As you can see, HMP Wandsworth is one of the more delightful examples of British prison architecture.
Wandsworth is also the largest prison in the UK, with 1,600 inmates.
Any readers who have been detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure in Wandsworth are encouraged to let us know what life is going to be like in there for Assange.
6.12pm: My colleague Afua Hirsch explains why it is so difficult to get bail in cases involving allegations of rape, the shocked reaction of Assange’s legal team notwithstanding:
“Lawyers representing people suspected of rape – either for domestic or extraditable offences – try to secure a suspect’s freedom by offering conditions that would make prison custody unnecessary.
In Assange’s case, a surety of £180,000 – money placed in court that would be forfeited if Assagne absconded – was offered. The defence also said they were willing to consider further conditions, such as the requirement to remain at home during certain hours, or even to wear an electronic tag.
But the fact that Assange does not have a permanent address in the UK – he is currently staying with friends – made bail far more unlikely.
In court District Judge Howard Riddle said that those conditions, and claims that Assange’s safety was at risk if he were placed in prison, were not sufficient to overcome the obstacles to granting bail, mainly Assange’s lack of “community ties” in the UK.
As in many extradition cases where a suspect is not based permanently in the UK, Riddle said there was a risk that Assange would fail to surrender were he released on bail.
The fact that Assange’s surety was also offered by people with whom Assange does not have close relationships – including journalist John Pilger and Jemima Khan – could also have persuaded the court that his ties were not sufficient to prevent him leaving the country.
However there is a presumption of bail under UK law, and Assange’s lawyers have vowed to make a renewed bail application, possibly strengthening the conditions attached to any release on bail.
While Assange remains in custody, future extradition proceedings are likely to be speeded up, with lawyers keen to ensure the full hearing takes place within the 21 days allotted.
6.08pm: Regarding the impious thought that US state department is bashing WikiLeaks with one hand and celebrating World Press Freedom Day with the other (see 5.30pm), my colleague Graeme Wearden tweets:
@janinegibson Perhaps the US think they’ll only have to put up with World Press Freedom on that one day?
Now suddenly it all makes sense.
5.58pm: The White House has just announced that Barack Obama is holding a press briefing at 2.20pm ET (7.20pm GMT) – and if he takes questions (and it sounds like he will) then WikiLeaks and the embassy cables might come up, although the topic of the day is the tax deal he announced last night.
Still, the White House press corps may just ask him about the weather; it’s hard to tell.
The Pentagon has changed its tune on the impact of the US embassy cables leak. Last week the US defence secretary Robert Gates declared there would be no long-term impact from the WikiLeaks revelations. Today, though, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan says there are indications of foreign governments “pulling back” from ealings with the US since the cables began to be published.
Lapan wouldn’t give specific examples, though. The Associated Press news agency reports Lapan as saying that “believing the US is not good at keeping secrets … certainly changes things,” and that “generally, there has been a retrenchment” in cooperation.
And here’s more from Josh Halliday on cyber-trouble for WikiLeaks:
“The website of the Swedish prosecution authority appears to be under attack by the group on online activists understood to be targetting all anti-WikiLeaks companies or departments.
Each of the six companies, including Amazon and eBay (NSDQ: EBAY), that have severed ties with Assange and WikiLeaks in past weeks following political pressure have quickly become the subject of sustained online assaults from the group known only as Anonymous. It took just hours for the Swiss bank, Post Finance, to be brought offline after announcing that it was closing Assange’s account on Monday.
The distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) overload a website’s servers with requests to load. Depending on how much demand the servers can withstand – a beneficial facet of larger companies such as Amazon – the site will either take longer than usual to load or be brought completely offline for a period. Anonymous has gained notoriety for attacks on copyright-enforcement agencies and some of the world’s largest record labels.
5.43pm: A quick “hats off” to our fellow WikiLeaks live bloggers over at the Nation, where Greg Mitchell has been doing a fine job every day since the first US embassy cables were published.
5.30pm: With perfect timing an email arrives from Philip Crowley at the state department:
“The United States is pleased to announce that it will host Unesco’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from 1-3 May in Washington, DC.”
Ironic? Read the next paragraph from the press release:
“The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and
innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.”
Shameless. You really could not make it up.
5.27pm: Here’s an evening summary:
‐¢ Julian Assange was refused bail today and will be remanded in custody till 14 December. He was charged at City of Westminister magistrates on behalf of the Swedish authorities with of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges.
‐¢ Assange told the court today that he intended to fight his extradition. His lawyers said they would appeal against the refusal to grant him bail. They also claimed that the prosecution was politically motivated, a point rejected by the Swedish authorities.
‐¢ Six people, including the journalist John Pilger, filmmaker Ken Loach, and socialite Jemima Khan, were among six people in court willing to offer surety of at £20,000. Members of the Australian high commission were also in court after Assange sought consular assistance from them.
‐¢ MasterCard and Visa have cut off support for WikiLeaks. They claimed WikiLeaks breaches its rules, but you can still use those cards to support overtly racist orgainsations supported by the Ku Klux Klan.
‐¢ WikiLeaks has vowed to carry on publishing the classified cables. Its lawyer Mark Stephens said it was “virtual journalistic community around the world, and they will continue”. It has stopped short of release an encryption code that will automatically publish the remain documents.
‐¢ The US has welcomed the arrest of Assange. “That sounds like good news to me,” said Robert Gates US defence secretary. “The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over,” NBC (NYSE: GE) television declared.
‐¢ The WikiLeaks crisis is holding back talks on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak.
5.25pm: The Drudge Report – which began life as a website for leaked material – is currently running a tenditious headline:
SOURCES: EDITORS OF TIME MAGAZINE WILL NAME WIKILEAKS FOUNDER ‘PERSON OF THE YEAR’… DEVELOPING…
In fact the truth is that Julian Assange is currently leading Time’s online readers poll – and Time (NYSE: TWX) itself has put out a response to Drudge’s claim, saying:
We never confirm or deny rumors until we reveal Time’s choice.
Time also says the readers poll is only indicative and that its editors make their own decision.
5.15pm: Ramping up his rhetoric on Fox News just now, Senator Joe Lieberman, the head of the Senate’s homeland security committee, suggests that the New York Times and other news organisations using the WikiLeaks cables may also be investigated for breaking the US’s espionage laws.
Lieberman told Fox News:
To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the justice department.
5.14pm: The daily state department briefing has taken place in Foggy Bottom and WikiLeaks and Assange came up – here are some details.
Philip Crowley, the state department press spokesman, says: “What WikiLeaks has done is a crime under US law.”
Note that Crowley doesn’t say which law WikiLeaks has broken, and that’s the tricky part.
Senator Joe Lieberman is on Fox News, saying that the department of justice should indict Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act and try to extradict him from the UK. Asked why this hasn’t happened, Lieberman admits that there is probably an argument going on over how to charge Assange.
5.05pm: My colleague Josh Halliday sends over news of a warm welcome for Julian Assange being offered by the Swiss Pirate Party:
“The Swiss Pirate party has just sent an open letter to the country’s federal council urging it to allow Julian Assange asylum.
“What has happened in the US – political pressure leading to the suppression of free speech by private companies like PayPal, Amazon, EveryDNS and Tableau – should not be allowed to happen in Switzerland,” the letter warns, adding: “For all these reasons a consistent and uncompromising digital policy is needed.”
WikiLeaks.ch, currently the primary domain name for the whistleblowers’ site, was registered by the Swiss Pirate party in June, before becoming WikiLeaks’ main access point last week after being dropped by its DNS host. The party referred 4,000 people a second to WikiLeaks through WikiLeaks.ch on Sunday, it has told the Guardian.
“We urge you to counter the interventions by the US and their ambassador in Switzerland. On the grounds of digital politics, the question of asylum for Julian Assange should be examined,” the letter goes on.”
4.56pm: My colleagues Caroline Davies and Sam Jones have just filed this news story on the Assange case.
4.55pm: This is Richard Adams in the Guardian’s Washington bureau, taking over from Matthew Weaver. The arrest of Julian Assange is of course huge news here in the US, dominating the cable news coverage and a subject of debate pretty much everywhere else.
4.49pm: Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny says the rape case against Assange has nothing to do WikiLeaks, Reuters (NYSE: TRI) reports:
“The sexual misconduct case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a personal matter and not connected with his work releasing secret US diplomatic cables, a Swedish prosecutor said on Tuesday.
“We have nothing which indicates that this is a plot,” prosecutor Marianne Ny was quoted by newspaper Aftonbladet as saying at a news conference in the western city of Gothenburg.
4.33pm: The WikiLeaks crisis is holding back talks on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, according to the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak.
Haaretz quoted him saying that contacts with the United States over a renewed moratorium on West Bank construction had been frozen in the wake of the WikiLeaks crisis and the tensions between North and South Korea.
“We have not reached understanding with the United States on how to resume the construction freeze,” Barak told the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee.
“The negotiations with the Palestinians are of utmost priority for Israel and we must aspire to make them happen.”
4.20pm: Mark Stephens was asked about Visa and MasterCard’s withdrawal of support for WikiLeaks. He replied:
“I am advised that WikiLeaks can continue to exist. They have many thousands of journalists in a virtual journalistic community around the world, and they will continue. We are at only cable 301 today. We will see the rest of those 250,000 cables coming out so that full information is available.”
4.14pm: Charles Arthur, the Guardian’s technology editor, points out that while MasterCard and Visa have cut WikiLeaks off you can still use those cards to donate to overtly racist organisations such as the Knights Party, which is supported by the Ku Klux Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan website directs users to a site called Christian Concepts. It takes Visa and MasterCard donations for users willing to state that they are “white and not of racially mixed descent. I am not married to a non-white. I do not date non-whites nor do I have non-white dependents. I believe in the ideals of western Christian civilisation and profess my belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God.”
4.07pm: Our legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch says it is very rare for bail to be offered in a rape case:
“The decision to deny Assange bail is less surprising than many might think. Rape is a notoriously difficult offence for which to get bail in criminal proceedings. In many cases this is because of the risk of reoffending or danger to the victim.
But in Assange’s case – as is often an issue with extradition proceedings – the problem is the lack of a permanent address in the UK, the difficulty of setting clear bail conditions that would persuade prosecutors that his whereabouts could be guaranteed, and the risk of his absconding.
In many cases those risks are regarded as sufficiently high that large amounts of security – a deposit paid into court and forfeited in the event of the suspect absconding – do not persuade magistrates that a person should be released on bail.
Although Assange will now be detained in prison, he will be kept in more relaxed conditions than those for prisoners who have been sentenced, including not having to wear prison uniform and having frequent access to visits and phone calls.
But his lawyers will be keen to speed up the coming extradition proceedings in light of his detention. In most cases where a suspect is kept in custody, a full extradition hearing is held within the legal time limit of 21 days.”
4.06pm: Sam Jones watched the moment Assange was driven away.
At 3.41pm Assange was driven away from court to shouts from protesters of “Julian we love you.”
Sam also caught more of John Pilger’s comments. Speaking outside the court the veteran journalist and filmaker said: “I was prepared to do it [offer £20,000 as surety] because there was a possibility of an injustice being perpetrated against Julian Assange personally. He has been a doing the job of a journalist and he deserves the support of people who believe that the free flow of information is the bedrock of a democracy.”
3.54pm: Here’s more of the comments Stephens made outside the court, which I missed the first time:
“WikiLeaks will continue. WikiLeaks is many thousands of journalists around the world. A renewed bail application will be made.
We have heard the judge today say that he wishes to see the evidence himself. He was impressed by the fact that a number of people were prepared to stand up on behalf of Mr Assange. In those circumstances I think we will see another bail application.
They [those offering surety] were but the tip of the iceberg. This is going to go viral. Many people believe Mr Assange to be innocent, myself included. Many people believe that this prosecution is politically motivated.
I’m sure that the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by politicians and that are judges are impartial and fair. I hope I can say the same about Swedish prosecutors in the future.”
3.45pm: More details on the charges, from the Press Association news agency:
“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.”
3.42pm: “We are in the rather exotic position of not seeing any of the evidence against him [Assange],” the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, has said.
“This is going to go viral,” he added. Many people believe these charges are politically motivated, he said.
Assange could have been safely released today, Stephens told reporters. These allegations are very thin indeed, he said. He confirmed that further bail applications will be made.
Stephens claimed that Assange will be vindicated.
He added that the release of the US embassy cables would continue.
3.38pm: Speaking to the media scrum Jemima Khan (left) said she did not know Julian Assange. She said she was offering support for him because of her backing for freedom on speech.
3.37pm: My colleague Caroline Davies, who was also in court, has more detail on why the judge turned down Assange’s request for bail.
He said these were “serious allegations against someone who has comparatively weak community ties in this country and the means and ability to abscond”.
3.33pm: My Washington-based colleague Richard Adams has been watching CNN’s coverage. He spotted this gem:
“When Ken Loach appeared leaving the courtroom just now, to much excitement, it was shown live on cable news here and CNN were utterly stumped. “Who was that gentleman? It may be Julian Assange’s attorney; we’re trying to find out.”
3.33pm: Speaking outside the court John Pilger described the judge’s failure to offer bail as “unjust”.
Every journalist should be supporting Assange 100% he said.
3.32pm: “This case is not about WikiLeaks,” district judge Howard Riddle told the court, according to my colleague Sam Jones, who was there.
Riddle refused bail on the grounds there was a risk he would fail to surrender. He rejected the prosecution claim that bail should be rejected on the grounds of Assange’s safety.
John Pilger, Ken Loach, and Jemima Khan were among six people in court willing to offer surety. They all offered at least £20,000. An anonymous individual offered surety of £60,000.
Assange appeared in court in a blue suit, white shirt and no tie.
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 he gave an address in Australia.
3.22pm: My colleagues Paul Owen and Caroline Davies have filed this story on Assange being refused bail.
3.04pm: Assange was refused bail, and will be remanded in custody till 14 December.
3.03pm: AP has this filed its first take on court proceedings:
“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a London court on Tuesday he intends to fight his extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations, setting up what could be a drawn-out legal battle.
The 39-year-old Australian appeared before City of Westminster magistrates court after turning himself in to Scotland Yard earlier Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant.
He was asked whether he understood that he could consent to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.
Clearing his throat, Assange said: “I understand that and I do not consent.”
Assange denies the allegations, which stem from a visit to Sweden in August. Assange 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.
Lawyers for Assange and the British government were still arguing on Tuesday over whether Assange should be granted bail.”
2.58pm: The journalist John Pilger and the film director Ken Loach have also been seen in court, according to various sources. They together with Jemima Khan are apparently all there to provide surety if bail is granted to Assange.
2.51pm: The two women concerned in the case regarded the used of a condom as a prerequiste for sex, the court heard, according to the legal affairs commentator Joshua Rozenberg, who was in the court.
Rozenberg told Sky News that charges were read out to Assange. In one of the cases Assange was alleged to have had sex with a woman who was asleep, the court heard, according to Rozenberg. The other case allegedly involved coercion, he said.
Assange’s lawyers made clear that the case would not finish today, Rozenberg said.
The prosecution, representing the Swedish authorities, objected to bail on two grounds: that Assange failed to surrender and that he should stay in custody for his own protection, Rozenberg reported.
2.35pm: Assange sought consular assistance from the Australian high commission, according to Channel 4 News.
Sky claims that members of the commission are inside the court with Assange.
2.33pm: WikiLeaks has put out another appeal for funding. “KEEP US STRONG – DONATE”, it tweeted.
The Press Association news agency has more on Visa’s decision to cut off payments:
“The card payment operator said an inquiry is under way into how the organisation operates.
The whistle-blowing website has suffered repeated denial of service attacks, moved server, lost its PayPal service and had a key Swiss bank account closed.
WikiLeaks relies on online donations from a worldwide network of supporters to fund its work.
A spokesman said: “Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks’ website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules.”
2.28pm: Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden, according to the Associated Press news agency.
2.10pm: The socialite Jemima Khan has appeared in the court with Julian Assange, according to Sky News.
2.08pm: US defence secretary Robert Gates has welcomed the arrest of Assange. Speaking to reporters on a visit to US troops in Afghanistan, Gates smirked on hearing the news. “I hadn’t heard that, but that sounds like good news to me,” he said.
2.07pm: More financial problems for WikiLeaks: Visa says it has suspended all payments to WikiLeaks “pending further investigation”. Earlier MasterCard said: “MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products.”
2.03pm: Hamid Karzai has been teasing the Americans and David Cameron about WikiLeaks, according to my colleague Polly Curtis, who accompanied Cameron to Kabul. Making light of what has clearly been a tricky diplomatic period after the WikiLeaks revelations, Karzai said: “You should wait for the British WikiLeaks.” Cameron responded: “We were always nice about you,” to which Karzai answered: “Most of the time.”
1.58pm: Assange is due to appear in court in the next few minutes, according to a tweet from Channel 4 News.
The freedom on information campaigner Heather Brooke, who worked with the Guardian on the cables, is also there. She just tweeted this:
We’ve been instructed to switch phones off so no twets for awhile. That’s open justice in UK folks. No recording or new media. #wikileaks
1.54pm: Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the US Senate’s intelligence committee, said Assange “should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage”.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, she says:
The law Mr Assange continues to violate is the Espionage Act of 1917. That law makes it a felony for an unauthorised person to possess or transmit “information relating to the national defence which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation”.
The Espionage Act also makes it a felony to fail to return such materials to the US government. Importantly, the courts have held that “information relating to the national defence” applies to both classified and unclassified material. Each violation is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
1.48pm: Assange’s lawyers are likely to argue that the extradition hearing in the UK can’t be fair, because of the unprecedented media attention, the Guardian’s Afua Hirsch just told Sky News (left).
1.15pm: Afua Hirsch, our legal affairs editor, explains the extradition process and what is likely to happen in the court:
Assange’s arrest by police this morning will kickstart the fast-tracked extradition process, using the European arrest warrant system to attempt to return him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning regarding a rape charge.
Swedish criminal law experts said this morning that little was known about the actual rape allegations Assange is facing in the country, in line with legal requirements to protect anonymity and preserve confidentiality for sex crimes.
However the activation of an EAW by UK police suggests Assange has now been formally charged by Swedish prosecutors, and could face a period of detention in Sweden upon his return.
But Assange’s legal team remains determined to fight his extradition on grounds ranging from the failure of authorities to provide him with details of the warrant issued by Sweden, and human rights grounds – including that the WikiLeaks founder may be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden, and that he risks not facing a fair trial.
The media attention surrounding Assange’s case is likely to complicate any future criminal proceedings, although the lack of a jury system in Sweden is likely to fuel arguments that he will be protected from public and media interest in the case.
Assange’s first appearance at Westminster magistrates court today will be primarily concerned with formalities, including establishing his identity and determining whether he consents to the extradition.
The court will then adjourn for a full extradition hearing, which has to be within 21 days. A key issue will be whether Assange is released on bail during that period. His lawyers are reported to be putting together a generous bail package, including a security of at least £100,000 and a surety – where third parties guarantee to pay the court if he absconds.
Experts say a large bail amount is likely to secure bail, although the crime for which Assange is wanted by Sweden is rape, a serious offence for which bail is often harder to secure.
If extradited to Sweden under the EAW – a process which could be concluded quickly under the fast-track procedure – Assange will be vulnerable to other extradition requests from countries including the US.
1.09pm: Back on the other side of the world, the Press Association news agency has this on Assange’s entering the magistrates court in Horseferry Road, London:
Julian Assange was mobbed by photographers as he arrived at court with Mark Stephens and the rest of his legal team.
He is due to appear before District Judge Caroline Tubbs in court one at 2pm, court staff said. Speaking outside court, Stephens said his client is “fine”.
Asked about the meeting with police, he replied: “It was very cordial. They have verified his identity. They are satisfied he is the real Julian Assange and we are ready to go into court.”
Mark Stephens, lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside Westminster magistrates court Mark Stephens, lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside Westminster magistrates court, London, today. Photograph: Julian Makey/Rex Features
1.02pm: Another key paragraph from Assange’s Australian article:
Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.
12.54pm: Assange’s op-ed piece in the Australian has been published.
The paper says these are the main points:
‐¢ WikiLeaks is fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.
‐¢ The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.
‐¢ (My idea is) to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.
‐¢ People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars.
‐¢ The Gillard government (Australia) is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed.
It is worth quoting Assange’s final remarks in full:
The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts: the US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US officials in Jordan and Bahrain want [sic] Iran’s nuclear program stopped by any means available.
Britain’s Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect “US interests”.
Sweden is a covert member of Nato and US intelligence-sharing is kept from parliament.
The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantánamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian president only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.
In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US supreme court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.
12.47pm: Assange has entered the court. He went in the back entrance and was accompanied by his lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson. They are due to to examine the charges against him. I was on the phone to my colleague Sam Jones when it happened. This is what it sounded like:
Meanwhile, the Swedish chief prosecutor, Marianne Ny, is planning to release a statement this afternoon on the arrest of Assange, according to Foresight News.
12.30pm: My colleague Robert Booth has more on plans by WikiLeaks to carry on publishing, plus that new video message and the 256 digit encryption code for the rest of the documents.
A group calling itself Justice for Assange is planning a protest outside City of Wesminster magistrates court at 1.30pm.
12.24pm: All the news networks in the US are leading with the Assange story, my colleague Richard Adams rang in to tell me.
NBC Today show anchorman Matt Lauer began today’s broadcast with this gravelly-voiced announcement: “The international manhunt for Julian Assange is over.”
Live blog: recap
12.19pm: Here’s a lunchtime summary:
‐¢ WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested at a London police station at 9.30am. He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape. He denies the charges. He is due to appear at City of Westminster magistrates at around 2pm.
‐¢ WikiLeaks have condemned the arrest as an attack on media freedom. Sources claim that the group currently has no plans to publish an insurance encryption code that will release the remaining, unpublished classified cables. In his online chat with the Guardian last Friday, Assange suggested the code would be released if “something happens to us”.
‐¢ The release of the cables will continue. The latest disclosures reveal US plans to defend the Baltic states and Poland against Russia.
‐¢ Assange has criticised America’s handling of the leaks in a comment piece for the Australian, written before his arrest. His supporters also plan to release a prerecorded video message. In his Australian article, Assange says the US is trying to have it both ways by claiming that the contents of cables are not significant and that the release will endanger lives.
‐¢ A cyber-war over WikiLeaks appears to be escalating. Supporters of the site are reportedly taking revenge against the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s assets, and are now targetting PayPal.
12.07pm: WikiLeaks just tweeted this:
Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal”
11.54am: WikiLeaks claims the arrest is an attack on media freedom, but it is worth pointing out that one of the claimants making the sexual assault allegations has strongly denied that the charges are trumped up, saying: “The charges against Assange are of course not orchestrated by the Pentagon.”
It should also be pointed out of course that Assange strenuously denies the sex assault charges.
The New York Times reports on how the US have been going after Assange over the separate issue of the leaked cables.
Justice department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organisation to make it public.
The Justice department has considered trying to indict Assange under the Espionage Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute a third-party recipient of a leak. Some lawmakers have suggested accusing WikiLeaks of receiving stolen government property, but experts said Monday that would also pose difficulties.
11.40am: Internet guru Clay Shirky has an interesting post on WikiLeaks and how America’s pursuit of the site opens it up to the charge of hypocrisy:
The leaders of Myanmar and Belarus, or Thailand and Russia, can now rightly say to us: “You went after WikiLeaks’ domain name, their hosting provider, and even denied your citizens the ability to register protest through donations, all without a warrant and all targeting overseas entities, simply because you decided you don’t like the site. If that’s the way governments get to behave, we can live with that.”
In this context comments by Hillary Clinton (below) in a Foreign Policy article earlier this year are coming back to haunt her:
On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognise that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it.
This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the first amendment to the constitution [guaranteeing freedom of speech] are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.
11.28am: WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the arrest would not derail the release of the cables. “This will not change our operation,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
ITV’s Kier Simmons tweets that Assange will appear at 2pm, citing a court source.
The Guardian has two reporters at the court. Caroline Davies is inside and Sam Jones is waiting outside in the cold.
Court staff confirmed to Sam that Assange probably won’t appear before 2pm.
Caroline texted me this on the scene outside:
Scrum of up to 30 photographers outside Horseferry Road magistrates court. A van arrived with blacked-out windows about 10 minutes ago, but no one could see if it was Assange.
11.19am: The BBC tweets:
WikiLeaks spokesman says Julian Assange’s arrest is an attack on media freedom but won’t stop group.
Assange’s article in the Australian will be published in full at 1pm our time, an hour later than we said earlier.
11.06am: The Australian has issued a sneak preview of Assange’s op-ed piece due later today:
Mr Assange begins by saying: “In 1958, a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide’s the News, wrote: ‘In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.'”
It goes on to say a few more things about freedom of speech; the “dark days” of corrupt government in Queensland (where Assange was raised); the Fitzgerald inquiry; and it says much about his upbringing in a country town, “where people spoke their minds bluntly”.
It says that Australian politicians are chanting a “provably false chorus” with the US State Department of “You’ll risk lives! You’ll endanger troops!” by releasing information, and “then they say there is nothing of importance in what Wikileaks publishes. It can’t be both.”
11.02am: More details are emerging about Assange’s meeting with the police. He was accompanied by both his British lawyers, Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson. The plans for the meeting continued to “chop and change” to prevent the event becoming a media circus, according to sources.
Assange will release a video statement later today. WikiLeaks had threatened to issue an encryption code that would release all of the remaining cables, if Assange was arrested.
But our sources say there are no current plans to do that.
10.53am: Here’s that video with comments from Assange’s lawyers.
10.45am: A spokesman for City of Westminster magistrates court said Assange must appear before 12.30pm, unless a judge gives special permission for a later hearing.
We do not know what is happening at the moment. We have not been told. 12.30pm is the cut-off time.
If they cannot produce him before then, we will have to wait for a decision from the judge, whether he or she gives permission.
10.41am: As of last night Assange had still not been told of the full allegations against him, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson explained in a video to be published on our site soon.
10.33am: Assange has written a comment piece for the Australian, which is due to be published in about 90 minutes’ time.
The paper’s Caroline Overington tweets:
Here it is: Julian Assange writes, in hours before his arrest: http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/mediadiary/index.php #wikileaks
10.30am: Here’s a statement from Metropolitan police:
Officers from the Metropolitan police extradition unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.
Julian Assange, 39, was arrested on a European arrest warrant by appointment at a London police station at 9.30am.
He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.
Assange is due to appear at City of Westminster magistrates court today.
10.26am: Police say Julian Assange (left) has been arrested on Swedish warrant, AP confirms.
10.18am: Sky News is reporting that Assange was arrested at 9.30am. It says he is expected to appear before City of Westminster magistrates court later today.
9.55am: The cyber war over WikiLeaks appears to be escalating, with supporters of the site reportedly taking revenge against the Swiss bank that froze Assange’s assets.
Operation Payback is now threatening to go after PayPal after claiming credit for shutting down the website of the Swiss bank PostFinance, Raw Story claims.
The site of the bank is currently unavailable.
On its Twitter account the group said: “PAYPAL.COM IS DOWN! AND YES WE ARE FIRING NOW!!! KEEP FIRING!”
9.40am: We are hanging on every word of Mark Stephens at the moment. This is what he told PA on his way to work:
Julian Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens appears on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show
I haven’t even seen the warrant yet. We have got 10 days to do this and a lot of complex schedules to organise.
I am sure it will be announced when it happens. I have not yet spoken to the police.
Stephens declined to say where Assange is and where he expected to be arrested and interviewed.
9.28am: Assange’s lawyers have pointed out that he will not be appearing in court today, but is expected to meet police later.
My colleague Sam Jones has been talking to Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens.
Sam emailed this note:
Seems the pre-hearing meeting with police has yet to go ahead and there will be “scheduling” discussions around the magistrates court appearance that could take days to hammer out. If and when it happens, Stephens says, they’ll give it out – or the police will leak it.
Last night Stephens told Newsnight that the arrest warrant against Assange was a “political stunt” and that his client had repeatedly offered to talk to the Swedish authorities.
It’s about time we got to the end of the day and we got some truth, justice and rule of law. Julian Assange has been the one in hot pursuit to vindicate himself to clear his good name.
He has been trying to meet with her [the Swedish prosecutor] to find out what the allegations are he has to face and also the evidence against him, which he still hasn’t seen.
9.19am: The Daily Mail’s Richard Pendlebury travelled to Enkoping in Sweden to examine the alleged sexual assault case against Julian Assange. The Mail has been portraying Assange as a international Bond villain in recent days, and there are plenty of sordid details in Pendlebury’s article. But it also examines “several puzzling flaws in the prosecution case”.
He says Assange’s supporters suspect US dirty tricks:
They argue that the whole squalid affair is a sexfalla, which translates loosely from the Swedish as a ‘honeytrap’.
One thing is clear, though: Sweden’s complex rape laws are central to the story.
Using a number of sources including leaked police interviews, we can begin to piece together the sequence of events which led to Assange’s liberty being threatened by Stockholm police rather than Washington, where already one U.S. politician has called on him to executed for “spying”.
8.47am: The WikiLeaks story continues to focus on the fate of Julian Assange as much as the contents of the leaked cables.
Assange was meeting his lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson this morning and is expected to meet police within hours. He will release a video statement later today.
Last night Robinson said: “We have a received an arrest warrant [related to claims in Sweden]. We are negotiating a meeting with police.”
Our legal affairs correspondent Afua Hirsch explains how Assange’s legal team will fight extradition.
Robert Booth reports on how the net has tightened around Assange since WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of classified cables.
Meanwhile, the US attorney general Eric Holder said his justice department was examining ways to stem the flow of leaked cables, as PayPal and a Swiss bank took action against WikiLeaks.
For more of the latest Guardian coverage of WikiLeaks and Assange, go here
This article originally appeared in Guardian.