Watch CBSN Live

Free Man: WikiLeaks' Assange Released on Bail

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was given leave to "smell the fresh air of London again," after a English court rejected an appeal by British prosecutors to deny his bail.

Assange is now free from jail under a strict conditional bail and has arrived at the English countryside estate of a famed British TV journalist where he will await further hearings regarding his possible extradition to Sweden to face questioning regarding the sexual assault claims against him by two women.

Standing outside the court Thursday evening free from jail for the first time in nine days, Assange read from a brief written statement in front of a scrum of reporters and onlookers. After the statement, Assange retreated inside the courthouse building and out of sight.

Watch: Julian Assange speak after being freed
Gallery: Ellingham Hall, Site of Assange's "Mansion Arrest"

In his written statement, Assange thanked his many supporters, his lawyers and "members of the press who are not all taken in and considered to look deeper in their work."

Assange also said he had time to reflect while in solitary confinement in "a Victorian prison," and, in what may have been a reference to jailed document leaker Army Private Bradley Manning, that he believed other people in solitary confinement around the world in worse conditions than his "also need your attention and support."

After his release, BBC footage captured the 39-year-old riding in a white armored four-by-four outside the Frontline Club, a venue for journalists owned by his friend and supporter Vaughan Smith. The broadcaster reported that Assange jumped upstairs for a celebratory cocktail at the bar, then went back outside to engage in a brief verbal joust with journalists over the merits of one of the leaked cables.

A few hours later, Assange arrived at Ellingham Hall, Smith's 10-bedroom mansion about 120 miles northeast of central London. Assange told journalists there that his time in prison had steeled him, giving him time to reflect on his personal philosophy and "enough anger about the situation to last me 100 years."

Earlier in the day, cheers erupted outside the London court as the verdict essentially freeing Assange by High Court justice Duncan Ouseley was reported. The judge then outlined the bail conditions to Assange in a packed courtroom full of lawyers, journalists and supporters.

Prosecutors had argued there was a risk Assange, who faces sex-crimes allegations in Sweden, would abscond if he was freed. But Ouseley said if Assange fled "he would diminish himself in the eyes of many of his supporters."

"I don't accept that Mr. Assange has an incentive not to attend (court)," Ouseley said. "He clearly does have some desire to clear his name."

CableGate Live Updates
Special Report: WikiLeaks

Assange, dressed in a dark gray suit, smiled and gave a thumb's up sign to a packed courtroom as he was led from the dock by court guards.

Assange has been in prison since Dec. 7, following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing.

Assange was granted a conditional release on 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail Tuesday.

Ouseley made some amendments to the bail conditions. Assange must wear an electronic tag, report to police every day and observe a curfew. He also must stay at a registered address - a 10-bedroom mansion in eastern England owned by Vaughan Smith, a WikiLeaks supporter and founder of London's Frontline Club for journalists.

Lawyers acting for Sweden say Assange is accused of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion by two women for separate incidents in August in Sweden. Although he is wanted for questioning in the case, he has not been charged.

Lawyers for Assange have called the case against him a "stitch up" and promise they will contest Sweden's attempt to extradite him for questioning.

Ouseley himself cast doubt on the Swedish proesecutor's case against Assange, reports the Guardian, when he said: "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."

Assange's lawyers say the allegations stem from a dispute over "consensual but unprotected sex" and argue that he has offered to make himself available for questioning via video link or in person in Britain.

Assange's supporters suspect the claims against him are politically motivated - a charge Sweden has denied.

Assange's next court appearance will be Jan. 11, 2011, a pre-trial hearing regarding his possible extradition.

Assange's lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, said Vaughan Smith, a wealthy British journalist and owner of Frontline club, will be among Assange's many sureties, according to the Guardian. Robertson joked in court that releasing Assange to Smith's care was like placing Assange under "Mansion Arrest."

Last month WikiLeaks deeply angered U.S. officials by beginning to publish its trove of 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables.