“Mr Assange has already demonstrated that he has been willing to flout the order of this court.
“I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings,” the judge said. “The remand therefore, is in custody.”
Clair Dobbin, a lawyer for the US government, told Westminster Magistrate’s Court that Assange had the “resources, ability and sheer wherewithal” to flee the country.
She reminded the court that Assange, in 2012, had evaded extradition to Sweden by entering the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he lived for seven years until he was kicked out by his hosts.
Dobbin said Mexico’s offer of political asylum to Assange this week made him a flight risk.
“I make that point simply to illustrate that there are countries that are sympathetic to Mr Assange,” she said, noting that Mr Assange would only need to enter the Mexican embassy to escape the legal processes.
“The history of his attempts to evade extradition to the United States demonstrates that he is capable of going to almost any length to avoid that possibility,” she said.
The US wants to try Assange over the publication of hundreds of thousands of secret and diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website a decade ago.
It requested his extradition from the United Kingdom but Judge Barrister denied this on Monday, saying Assange would be a suicide risk if held in a US supermax prison.
Assange’s QC Edward Fitzgerald said that ruling meant Assange should reclaim his liberty and that his mental health would be better served if he were able to live under house arrest, with a GPS tag at a London residence provided by one of his supporters as surety.
“The grant of bail would allow actual physical contact with his family, that would not only alleviate mental distress but it would anchor him to his family and to his community,” Fitzgerald said.
“For the first time, this is a new factor … which totally changes the position [from] 2012.
“One cannot continue to rely on the events of 2012, it’s a totally different situation now.”
But the judge was not persuaded and said the US government had the legal right to challenge her extradition ruling and that the publisher’s decision to make himself a “fugitive of justice” in 2012 showed he could not be trusted not to abscond again.
“As far as Mr Assange is concerned, this case has not yet been won,” she said.
Assange’s fiancee said the decision was a “huge disappointment”.
“Julian should not be in Belmarsh Prison in the first place, I urge the Department of Justice to drop the charges and the President of the United States to pardon Julian,” she said.
WikiLeaks said the bail decision would be appealed, possibly “within days”.
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Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.