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British Appeals Judge Orders Assange Freed

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A British appeals court judge ordered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange freed Thursday, rejecting a British prosecutor's appeal to keep him in prison.

Mark Stephens, Assange's lawyer, said he hoped his client would be released today instead of having to return to the prison cell once occupied by Oscar Wilde and instead would go to his "mansion arrest."

Stephens said, "We are utterly delighted and thrilled." He said Assange's team of lawyers had been awarded costs of the proceedings.

It was not clear whether any new terms were required for his release. The lower court judge had demanded that the $370,000 bail be paid, that Assange wear a tracking device, stay in a specific residence assigned by the court and follow a curfew keeping at home during the late night hours. The police station he must report to daily was changed because the previous one will be closed much of the holidays.

"The history of the way it [the case] has been dealt with by the Swedish prosecutors would give Mr Assange some basis that he might be acquitted following a trial," said Justice Duncan Ouseley ."

The decision followed the news that it wasn't Sweden that opposed his release in the first place.

Britain, America's strongest ally and main supporter in the Iraq war, appealed the bail order not Sweden. In their appeal the prosecutors claimed the supporters providing bail money actually support Wikileaks the organization and not Assange, suggesting a mind-reading capability rejected by Ouseley.

The New York Times reported U.S. prosecutors are trying to find a way to charge Assange with a crime. Assange's lawyers have been saying for more than a week that a grand jury is meeting in Virginia.

Even with Assange in jail the WikiLeaks disclosures continued. The latest was a U.S. Embassy cable that said BP had covered up an oil spill that occurred 18 months before the big blowout last April.

Grand Jury proceedings are a remnant of star courts. They are secret and with no opposition from defense counsel can be led in any direction prosecutors want to go. And if a grand jury should decide against what prosecutors the jurors could be ordered to shut up upon pain of imprisonment.

There has been speculation Britain was delaying Assange's release to give U.S. authorities time to file charges and seek extradition.

In a case that has become more confusing by the day, Swedish authorities have denied they sought to block his release on Monday after a lower court judge granted him bail of $310,000.

The British Crown Prosecution Service confirmed it had made the appeal. It wasn't clear why lawyers for Assange, if they were present for the hearing, had blamed the decision to delay his release. British authorities certainly made no attempt to make clear what happened.

Swedish authorities, immediately after bail was granted, said they would not oppose it. "We did take the decision to oppose bail without consulting the Swedish authorities, but that is absolutely standard practice," a spokesman for British prosecutors told AFP.

"The decision was appealed by the British prosecutor. Sweden has no opinion on this and will not intervene with a case handled by the British authorities," said Marianne Nye, director of Swedish prosecutions.

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