Update: Assange has been freed on bail


Julian Assange, founder of secrets website WikiLeaks, was released on bail in London Thursday evening.

Authorities had held the former hacker in Wandsworth prison since Dec. 7 when he was detained on sex assault charges.

"It's great to smell the fresh air of London again," he told reporters as he left the jail.

Assange thanked his supporters around the world, his lawyers and members of the press who were not "all taken in and considered to look deeper in their work."

He also thanked the British justice system. "If justice is not always an outcome, at least, it is not dead yet," he said.

"During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world who also are also in solitary confinement, also on remand in conditions more difficult that those faced by me," he told his supporters and members of the press.

"Those people also need your attention and support."

"And with that, I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal, as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations. Thank you," Assange concluded without taking any questions.

This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast Dec. 16, 2010.


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Original report continues below...

At a Thursday hearing, a British judge denied prosecutors' request that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be held in prison without bail.

Assange had been granted bail Tuesday but was held in a London's Wandsworth prison while British prosecutors appealed the decision.

While Swedish prosecutors were thought to be behind the appeal, Guardian revealed Wednesday that British prosecutors were responsible for the request.

"[T]oday the Swedish prosecutor's office told the Guardian it had 'not got a view at all on bail' and that Britain had made the decision to oppose bail," the newspaper reported.

During Thursday's hearing, the judge said there was reason to believe Assange would work within the law to fight the charges against him.

Assange "clearly does have some desire to clear his name because if he were not to do so, the allegations would always be hanging over him," the judge said.

At the Tuesday bail hearing, the court set conditions for Assange's release, including a surety of 200,000 pounds ($316,000).

The court also required that Assange surrender his passport, report to police every day at 6 p.m., submit to a 10 p.m. curfew and wear a tracking device.

After Assange was granted bail, Guardian noted that it could take up to an hour for his release.

But lawyers for the defense told NBC's Peter Alexander that during Thursday's bail hearing, the court had required even more money. "They say that he may not, in fact, leave prison until tomorrow," Alexander noted.

Several prominent British citizens pledged to provide the bail money.

Assange also received help from US filmmaker Michael Moore, who offered $20,000 for Assange's bail. He called the WikiLeaks founder "a pioneer of free speech" and said he'd host their site on his own web servers if needed.

When finally released, Assange will swap his prison cell for a 10-bedroom mansion on a 600-acre estate provided British journalist Vaughan Smith.

Assange has been held in prison since Dec. 7 when he was detained on sex assault charges.

-- with earlier reporting by Daniel Tencer and Stephen Webster