LONDON — Julian Assange is swapping a Victorian prison cell for an English country mansion after a judge granted bail to the WikiLeaks founder wanted in Sweden for questioning on sex-crimes allegations.
The decision was greeted with delight by supporters who believe the allegations have been manipulated by enemies of the secret-spilling website, which continues to pour classified U.S. diplomatic cables onto the Web. Bail was opposed by prosecutors who claim the nomadic 39-year-old may abscond rather than face trial.
Cheers erupted Thursday from supporters outside the neo-Gothic London court as Assange emerged to address the crowd.
“It’s great to smell the fresh air of London again,” he said amid a barrage of flash bulbs.
Assange gave no indication of what his immediate plans were, but said the period he spent in prison had given him time to reflect on the condition of inmates elsehwere. He didn’t responded to shouted questions from assembled journalists, returning inside the court to get into his lawyer’s car.
Assange is now expected to head to a British country mansion where he will have to observe a curfew and wear a monitoring device.
The Australian’s next extradition hearing is set for Jan. 11.