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Judge grants bail to WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

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December 16, 2010 11:09 PM EST | AP

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LONDON — A U.K. judge has rejected an appeal and granted bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who will be freed from a British jail.

High Court justice Duncan Ouseley rejected prosecutors' argument that Assange should stay in prison and granted him conditional bail.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was back in a British court for a third time, waiting Thursday to hear whether U.K. authorities will overturn their earlier decision to grant him bail.

Scores of reporters filled the wood-paneled courtroom and public gallery of London's High Court, along with teams of lawyers, Assange supporters and his mother, Christine Assange.

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, was swarmed by photographers as he walked into the neo-Gothic building.

"We are hopeful but of course it is a matter entirely for the judge," Stephens said.

Assange stood in a dark gray suit in the courtroom dock as judge Duncan Ouseley began hearing an appeal by British prosecutors acting on behalf of Sweden.

The WikiLeaks leader has been in a U.K. prison since Dec. 7, following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies wrongdoing but is refusing to surrender to Sweden's request to extradite him for questioning.

Assange was granted a conditional release on 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail Tuesday, but prosecutors are trying to keep him behind bars until his extradition hearing in January.

The Guardian newspaper reported that British prosecutors had decided to appeal the bail decision without consulting their Swedish counterparts. Karin Rosander of Sweden's prosecutors office told The Guardian that "Swedish prosecutors are not entitled to make decisions within Britain. It is entirely up to the British authorities to handle it."

Lawyers acting for Sweden say Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion by two women for separate incidents in August in Sweden. He has not been charged.

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.

Last month WikiLeaks deeply angered U.S. officials by beginning to publish its trove of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables, after earlier publishing thousands of secret U.S. military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange's supporters suspect the claims against him are politically motivated – a charge Sweden has denied.

On Tuesday, District Judge Howard Riddle granted bail on condition that Assange wear an electronic tag, stay at a specific address in eastern England, report to police every evening and observe two four-hour curfews each day in addition to putting up the bond.

His lawyers have raced to assemble the 200,000 pounds bail, which the court wants to see up front. Stephens said Thursday he was confident the amount would be raised.

"We currently have pledges from all the people who stood behind him on other occasions," Stephens said.

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Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless contributed to this report.