|Julian Assange, the founder of the controversial cyber-snitching organization WikiLeaks, celebrates his bail on the steps of London's High Court 16 December 2010: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters|
(Story by Isabel Coles and Avril Ormsby)
(Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, fighting extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, walked free on bail from a British jail on Thursday protesting his innocence and pledging to continue exposing official secrets.
A weary-looking Assange spoke to a crowd of journalists and supporters waiting in the snow outside Britain's High Court five hours after a judge said he could be released on 200,000 pounds ($312,000) bail under stringent conditions.
"It's great to smell fresh air of London again," Assange, illuminated by a blizzard of photographers' flashes, said.
"I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter," said the 39-year-old Australian, flanked by his lawyers.
WikiLeaks has angered U.S. authorities by publishing hundreds of a trove of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, including details of overseas installations that Washington regards as vital to its security.
Assange thanked "all the people around the world who have had faith in me," and the British justice system "where if justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet."
Assange, wearing a dark suit and open-necked white shirt, brandished court papers titled "Swedish Judicial Authority vs Julian Paul Assange." He was then driven away in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Assange has spent nine days in a London jail after Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him over allegations of sexual misconduct made by two female WikiLeaks volunteers. Assange denies the accusations.
(Click here to read the full story on the Reuters website.)