Image: Julian Assange
Carl Court  /  AFP - Getty Images
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is pictured through the heavily tinted windows of a police vehicle as he arrives at Westminster magistrates court in London, on December 14, 2010. Julian Assange blasted Visa, MasterCard and PayPal Tuesday for blocking donations to his website, in a defiant statement from behind bars ahead of a fresh court appearance in London.
NBC News and news services
updated 12/14/2010 5:56:11 PM ET 2010-12-14T22:56:11

A British judge ordered Julian Assange released on 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail Tuesday, but the WikiLeaks founder will remain in custody for at least two more days after Swedish prosecutors challenged that decision.

Assange has spent a week in a U.K. jail 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 — arguing that he could be questioned from Britain.

In a day of courtroom drama, the 39-year-old Australian was first told by a judge that he would be freed, then less than two hours later was informed he had at least another 48 hours in custody.

Britain's High Court will hear the Swedish appeal, but it wasn't clear exactly when.

"They clearly will not spare any expense to keep Mr. Assange in jail," his lawyer Mark Stephens told journalists outside the entrance to the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. "This is really turning into a show trial."

Interactive: WikiLeaks timeline (on this page)

Lawyer Gemma Lindfield, acting for Sweden, had asked the court to deny Assange bail, arguing Tuesday that the allegations against him were serious, that he had only weak ties to Britain and that he had "the means and ability to abscond."

Reminding the court that it had already labeled Assange "a flight risk," she argued that "nothing has changed since last week to allay the court's fears in this regard."

She 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.

Video: Bail for WikiLeaks' Assange set at $315,000 (on this page)

"This is not a case about WikiLeaks, rather a case about alleged serious offenses against two women," Lindfield told the court Tuesday.

Celebrity supporters in the court — including socialite Jemima Khan and actress Bianca Jagger — and hundreds of pro-WikiLeaks protesters outside the building cheered at District Judge Howard Riddle's decision to grant Assange bail.

Under the ruling, Assange must 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 in addition to putting up the bond.

Assange's mother Christine, who was flown to Britain by Australian media outlets, watched the hearing nervously from the public gallery, but gave a huge smile as the judge announced his decision.

"I just want to thank everyone who's turned up to show their support and who's taken an interest," Christine Assange said.

A number of international figures put up a total of 240,000 pounds ($380,000) as a guarantee. The supporters had offered to post bond to help secure Assange's release, his lawyer, high-profile human rights advocate Geoffrey Robertson, told the court during the hearing.

Sweden investigation
Assange, wearing a dark suit with a white shirt, appeared more ashen that he did at this last appearance, reporters posting to Twitter from inside the courtroom said. Seated and unshackled, he listened intently from a glassed-in defendant's box, NBC News' Alexander tweeted.

Assange is wanted for questioning after two women accused him of sexual misconduct in separate encounters in Sweden over the summer. Lawyers for Assange say he denies the allegations and will contest Sweden's attempt to extradite him.

Riddle had initially ordered Assange to prison at a Dec. 7 hearing conducted after he turned himself in.

Story: Air Force blocks media sites posting leaked cables

The WikiLeaks disclosures, which have continued unaffected since Assange was detained in prison, have offended some U.S. allies and angered its rivals. Officials in Washington claim some other countries have already curtailed their dealings with the U.S. government as a result.

'My convictions are unfaltering'
Earlier, Assange spoke from his prison cell to defend himself and attack the financial companies that suspended payments to his controversial website, Australian television reported Tuesday.

Assange told his mother that he remained committed to publishing some 250,000 pages of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, despite condemnation from Washington and elsewhere.

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Australia's Network Seven asked Assange to ask her son one question during a visit to his London jail: Was it worth it?

"My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them," said Assange, according to his mother who supplied the network with a written statement of her son's answer.

"If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct."

'Illegal and immoral attacks'
In his statement from jail, Assange was also critical of the major finance companies who suspended payments to his WikiLeaks site, saying, "We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It's not something we knew before."

"I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks," he said.

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Some of Assange's supporters suspect the extradition request has been motivated by WikiLeaks' decision last month to begin publishing its trove of the secret U.S. diplomatic cables, something Swedish officials have denied.

A group held a noisy protest outside the court.

"It is too much of a coincidence," said protester Alex Potterill, 33. "This is an attack on the valuable work of WikiLeaks. It is an attempt to gag a valuable source of information."

Mark Stephens, a lawyer for Assange, said Swedish authorities would clearly not spare any expense to keep Assange in jail.

"This is really turning into a show trial and we will be in court again within the next 48 hours," he told reporters.

He called Assange "an innocent man sitting in Dickensian conditions, Victorian conditions in Wandsworth jail."

The U.S. Justice Department has been looking into a range of criminal charges, including violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, that could be filed in the WikiLeaks case.

Assange and his lawyers have voiced fears that U.S. prosecutors may be preparing to indict him for espionage after WikiLeaks' publication of the cables.

Swedish charges
At an hour-long court hearing last week, Lindfield said Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

She told the court one woman had accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom during an encounter on Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way "designed to violate her sexual integrity" several days later.

A second woman has accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

In Sweden, a person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person can be convicted of rape and sentenced to up to six years in prison.

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Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, claims the courts are stacked against defendants in sex cases in Sweden.

However, a 2009 European Commission-funded study found only 10 percent of sex offenses reported in Sweden result in a conviction.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Interactive: WikiLeaks timeline

Video: Assange granted bail, sent back to prison

  1. Transcript of: Assange granted bail, sent back to prison

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Overseas there has been a victory for the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange , the man who blew the whistle on much of the world, in his fight to get out of prison. But tonight there's also been a catch. Our own Peter Alexander remains outside Wandsworth Prison in southwest London tonight . Peter , good evening.

    PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Brian , good evening to you. Assange will remain here at Wandsworth Prison for at least one more night, returning to court by Thursday, after Swedish authorities appeal the judge's decision ordering his release on bail. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations he vehemently denies. His lawyer tonight called that appeal vindictive. Photographers today captured these photos of Assange through tinted windows on his way into the courthouse. At the hearing, the man who's made freedom of

    information his life's work learned the price of his own freedom: $315,000 cash bail with restrictions. Assange would have to reside at the estate of a friend outside London , it was volunteered by its owner, a man who is the founder of an exclusive prominent British club for journalists. Assange would also have to be under curfew with electronic monitoring. But again, Brian , tonight he remains here behind bars in solitary confinement.

    WILLIAMS: Peter Alexander in London for us tonight. Peter , thanks for

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