LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was due back in British court Thursday to fight for bail following a week of legal drama which has seen prosecutors challenge a judge's decision to free him.
Assange was granted a conditional release on 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail Tuesday, but prosecutors are trying to keep him behind bars and appealed the decision to London's High Court.
Assange has already spent more than a week in prison following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing but has refused to voluntarily surrender to Sweden's request to extradite him for questioning.
Supporters of the 39-year-old Australian say the charges are trumped up and possibly politically motivated.
Assange's British lawyer, Mark Stephens, said Wednesday that "somebody has it in for Julian Assange and we only can conjecture why."
But lawyer Gemma Lindfield, acting for Sweden, told Tuesday's hearing at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court that Assange faced serious allegations and may abscond if granted bail.
She said he is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion by two women for separate incidents in August. Assange has yet to be charged.
Although the request to reverse the bail decision was widely reported Tuesday to have been at the request of Sweden, a report in the British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday said that the Swedish prosecutors had no opinion on Assange's bail request.
Karin Rosander, director of communications for Sweden's prosecutor's office, told The Guardian: "The decision was made by the British prosecutor. I got it confirmed by the (Crown Prosecution Service) this morning that the decision to appeal the granting of bail was entirely a matter for the CPS. The Swedish prosecutors are not entitled to make decisions within Britain. It is entirely up to the British authorities to handle it."
Assange's lawyers say the allegations stem from a dispute over "consensual but unprotected sex" and argue that he has offered to make himself available for questioning via video link or in person in Britain.
Lindfield also rejected attempts to link Assange's case with the work of WikiLeaks – which last month deeply angered U.S. officials by beginning to publish its trove of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
"This is not a case about WikiLeaks, rather a case about alleged serious offenses against two women," Lindfield said.
District Judge Howard Riddle approved bail on condition Assange wear an electronic tag, stay at a specific address in southern England, report to police every evening and observe two four-hour curfews each day besides putting up the bond.
His lawyers are struggling to assemble the bail money, which the court wants to see up front and in cash. Stephens said he had about half the amount by Wednesday.