|The UK denied Assange bail, ordering that he be detained for a week after his arrest on an extradition warrant [EPA]|
The Australian government has blamed the United States, not detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, for the release of secret US diplomatic cables, saying those who originally leaked the documents were legally liable.
“Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network,” Kevin Rudd, Australia’s foreign minister, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
“The Americans are responsible for that,” he said.
Rudd also said the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of US security, suggesting that too many officials had access to the information.
Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, had previously taken a harder line against WikiLeaks, saying that the website and publication of the cables were “illegal”.
However she later appeared to tone down her comments, saying the main issue was with the illegal leaking of confidential documents, and that their publication was “grossly irresponsible”.
Rudd’s comments come as Assange is being held in a London prison after a British judge refused him bail on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old Australian, who was arrested and taken to court after handing himself into authorities in the capital, is wanted in Sweden on allegations of sex crimes.
Howard Riddle, the presiding judge at the City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court, remanded Assange in custody on the grounds that there was a risk he would fail to surrender.
Gemma Lindfield, representing the Swedish authorities, had told the court Assange should not be granted bail because of his “nomadic” lifestyle, his Australian citizenship and reports that he intended to seek asylum in Switzerland.
“This is someone for whom, simply put, there is no condition, even the most stringent that would ensure he would surrender to the jurisdiction of this court,” the Press Association quoted her as saying.
Assange was ordered to appear at the court for an extradition hearing on December 14.
A number of well known personalities including Jemima Khan, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger all offered to stand as surety for Assange.
In a statement, police said Assange was “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”.
Fears of manipulation
Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer, said outside the court that his client was likely to appeal Tuesday’s decision, saying they were entitled to take the case to the High Court.
“Many people believe Mr Assange to be innocent, myself included, and many people believe that this prosecution is politically motivated,” he said.
But a lawyer representing the women who made the accusations said on Wednesday that they were not involved in any politically motivated plot against Assange.
Claes Borgstrom said the accounts provided by the two women were credible. He also said there was a
good chance that Sweden would eventually press charges against the WikiLeaks founder.
Assange is accused of rape and sexual molestation in Sweden, charges he has denied.
According to media reports, Assange slept with two women during a visit to Sweden in August. One of them has been quoted by a Swedish newspaper as saying that the sex was consensual to begin with, but ended with abuse.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s London-based lawyer, said her client would likely resist being returned to Sweden for fear he could be turned over to the US where outrage is growing over the leak of documents.
“I think he will get a fair hearing here in Britain but I think … his prospects if he were ever to be returned to the US, which is a real threat, of a fair trial, is, in my view, nigh on impossible,” she told Australian broadcaster the ABC.
WikiLeaks has been under intense international scrutiny over its disclosure of a mountain of classified US cables that have embarrassed Washington and other governments.
US officials have been putting pressure on WikiLeaks and those who help it, and are investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted under American espionage laws.
The pressure on WikiLeaks has increased as the Swiss authorities closed Assange’s bank account,depriving him of a key fundraising tool. Visa, Mastercard and Paypal have also cut links to the website, as has Amazon and a US server provider.
Despite this WikiLeaks has managed to stay online, receiving help from computer-savvy advocates who have set up hundreds of “mirrors”, or carbon-copy websites around the world.
In what Assange described as a last-ditch deterrent, WikiLeaks has warned that it has distributed a heavily encrypted version of some of its most important documents and that the information could be instantly made public if the staff were arrested.