Wikileaks founder Julian Assange denied bail on rape charge, Rudd confirms consulate support

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed the Federal Government will provide consular support to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was last night denied bail on sexual assault charges by a London Court.

But Rudd has also been forced to dismiss Wikileaks’ release of secret diplomatic cables from US state officials calling him a “control freak” and criticising the Australian Government’s tendency to release new initiatives without consulting the international community.

Assange surrendered to local authorities overnight in order to seek more information about the allegations contained in an arrest warrant issued by the Swedish police. The authorities are accusing him of rape and sexual assault in four separate incidents.

Assange was denied bail by magistrate Howard Riddle, who said he had “substantial grounds” to believe that Assange would flee the country if given the chance.

But Assange’s legal representation, Mark Stephens, said after the court hearing that WikiLeaks will remain online and a new bail application is being formed.

“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,” he said.

“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 our judges are impartial and fair. I hope I can say the same about Swedish prosecutors in the future.”

It is understood that Geoffrey Robertson is flying to Britain in order to appear as Assange’s representation. Assange is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden, an area of law with which Robertson has extensive experience.

Swedish prosecutor Gemma Lindfield argued that opposing bail actually protects Assange, given that “any number of unstable persons could take it upon themselves to cause him serious harm”.

“This is someone, simply put, to whom no conditions, even the most stringent conditions, could be imposed that would ensure he surrendered to the jurisdiction of this court,” she said.

Assange’s failed bail application comes as more authorities in the United States are calling for his arrest and detainment, calling Assange and the WikiLeaks organisation advocates for terrorism. Senate homeland security committee chairman Joe Lieberman says businesses should cut all ties with the website – Visa and MasterCard have already done so.

But a WikiLeaks spokesperson has said that the site is completely operational.

“We are continuing on the same track as laid out before. Any development with regards to Julian Assange will not change the plans we have with regards to the releases today and in the coming days.”

Meanwhile, the latest cables released by Wikileaks and published by Fairfax, reveal the United States viewed Rudd as a “control freak”.

”Rudd … undoubtedly believes that with his intellect, his six years as a diplomat in the 1980s and his five years as shadow foreign minister, he has the background and the ability to direct Australia’s foreign policy. His performance so far, however, demonstrates that he does not have the staff or the experience to do the job properly,” one cable documents.

The cables criticise his handling of affairs within his own office and a focus on media events, rather than diplomacy. He is criticised for making ”snap announcements without consulting other countries or within the Australian Government”.

Two specific moments are referred to: when foreign minister Stephen Smith said in February 2008 that Australia would not support dialogue between Australia, the US, Japan and India, along with the announcement of an international commission on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

But Rudd has ignored the leaks, saying that he doesn’t “give a damn about this sort of thing”.

”Because the real challenges of diplomacy are here today as they were yesterday… I think frankly we should just take it like water off a duck’s back,” he told Fairfax radio, also confirming that Australia would give consular support to Assange.

”I’m the foreign minister of Australia, responsible for the consular wellbeing of all Australians and therefore I just want to make it absolutely clear that first of all Mr Assange has contacted the Australian consul-general in London and asked for consular support,” he said. ”We have confirmed that we will provide that, as we do for all Australian citizens.”


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