Reversal on bail seen as major victory for Assange

A British judge has agreed to release Julian Assange on bail, which could be the first step in setting the controversial founder of the WikiLeaks web site free over the next few days to fight an extradition warrant to Sweden from outside a prison cell.

Assange, though continued to remain in custody with British prosecutors representing Sweden challenging the decision, with a hearing on their appeal set for not later than tomorrow.

Among Assange's supporters are wealthy celebrities like Bianca Jagger and US filmmaker Michael Moore, who have lined up  funds amounting to around $380,000 - to cover his bail and provide other required financial assistance.

Judge Howard Riddle's decision has reversed a ruling last week that led to the WikiLeaks founder's arrest and detention in connection with Sweden's request for his extradition to face sex-crime allegations.

Though Riddle considered Assange a flight risk last week, he yesterday set terms for the 39-year-old Australian release.

These include Assange surrendering his passport, wearing an electronic tag and keeping a curfew while staying with Vaughan Smith, a British restaurateur and former war correspondent, at his estate northeast of London. Smith has agreed to house Assange.