LIVE UPDATE: Assange in Court 12/14/2010

Sciutto also tweets that he hasn’t seen this many journalists at a trial since Saddam Hussein’s . Now there’s name dropping for you.

1.41pm: Assange’s new barrister Geoffrey Robertson has also arrived at the court. He had to bang on the door to get in, according to ABCs Jim Sciutto.

1.36pm: Journalists appear to be outnumbering protesters outside the court. There are only 30 protesters in Horseferry Road, Sam Jones estimates.1.26pm: My colleague Vikram Dodd managed to catch a word with film director Ken Loach before he went into the court.

Vikram Dodd. Photograph: Linda Nylind.Loach said he would provide surety of £20,000 for Assange and added that at least six of seven other people would do the same. He said Assange deserved to be released today. “If there is any justice he must do,” Loach said.

“The evidence against Assange seems very flimsy. The more worrying thing is the political intrigue behind the scenes,” he added.

Other celebs and notables spotted at the court include Bianca Jagger, Henry Porter, and Tariq Ali.

1.18pm: Back at the court the socialite Jemima Khan has arrived, as has Fatima Bhutto, the niece of the former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto. Jemima Khan explained why she is backing Assange in an article in last Sunday’s Observer.

Ken Loach and John Pilger have also turned up, according to an eagle-eyed Sam Jones.

1.14pm: Salon’s Glenn Greenwald gives us the heads up on a troubling-sounding story.

A major story brewing is the cruel, inhumane treatment – torture – to which Bradley Manning is being subjected: more to come shortly.

1.07pm: Josh Halliday has the latest on the hacking front.

He reports that Assange’s prison statement about Visa, MasterCard and PayPal could escalate “crippling web attacks on multinational companies”.

12.39pm: The US filmmaker Michael Moore has offered $20,000 in surety as part of Assange’s growing bail fund. In a post for the Daily Kos he explains why:

Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top.

Should that be £s? All the celebs last week, including Jemima Khan, John Pilger and Ken Loach were offering £20,000.

12.34pm: Police officers have dragged one protester from outside court to the other side of Horseferry Road where a demo of a handful of people is gathered, Sam emails.

Reporters are being told they will have to wait another 30 minutes before they are allowed inside the court, he adds.

12.25pm: Assange’s supporters have turned up at the court. One of the is holding up a placard that reads: “sex crimes, my arse!” Thanks to Sam Jones for that snippet.

12.19pm: The freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke continues to provide an entertaining Twitter commentary on events outside the court. You can follow her @newsbrooke

Here’s a selection:

#assange’s mom Christine has just arrived in court. Same build as her son. Almost identical shoes and outdoorsy style. #wikileaks

Anyone doubting #wikileaks isn’t a cult of #assange personality needs to see the phalanx of cameras here. Like Cannes wtg for the starlet.

lawyers mark stephens and jennifer robinson have arrived into court. This is such a mad spectacle; court bureaucrats not helping.

12.09pm: Time for a summary:

Live blog: recap

• Julian Assange has returned to City of Westminster magistrates court to appeal for bail. His lawyers are expected to offer a permanent UK address and suggest using an electronic tags to persuade the court to grant him bail.
• In a statement from his prison cell Assange criticised Visa, MasterCard and PayPal as instruments of US foreign policy. He also said his treatment had strengthened his convictions and determination. The statement was released through Assange’s mother Christine, who is at the court to support her son.
• Whitehall is preparing for a possible cyber attack against government websites. RBS, one of the subjects of today’s cable disclosures, reported problems with its website. It is unclear if this connected with hacking.
• Assange continues to enjoy widespread popular support. He topped the readers’ poll in Time’s person of the year contest, and almost half of Britons believe the charges against him are an excuse to keep in custody, according to a CNN poll.

12.08pm: Assange’s mum Christine has just arrived at the court, Sam Jones says.

11.56am: Assange’s lawyers, Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson, have just arrived at the court, according to Sam Jones. They entered without talking to reporters, he said.

11.43am: Here’s a fantastic new picture of Julian Assange tapping his nose from inside that prison van.

The Daily Mail is appalled (again):

Assange even pokes fun at the establishment from his prison van as he prepares for court.

With a telling tap of the finger, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gives the impression that he knows what’s going on even when being transported in a prison van.

The 39-year-old Australian was photographed in the back of the vehicle while being ferried to City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court from his Wandsworth Prison cell.

He might just be scratching his eye.

11.28am: Gideon Rachman, a late convert to the WikiLeaks cables, argues that Assange should be given a medal by the Americans, for “debunking decades-old conspiracy theories about its foreign policy”.

Writing in the FT he says:

The documents published over the past fortnight have provided very little evidence of double-dealing or bad faith in US foreign policy. Conspiracy theorists all over the world must be deeply disappointed.

What about the US spying on the UN?

Even some of the officials who might have been spied upon do not seem terribly outraged – since they assume that espionage from all quarters is an unfortunate fact of diplomatic life.

That’s all right then.

11.21am: RBS has issued a very brief statement on the problems with its website. For what it’s worth, here it is:

We are aware of an issue affecting some online banking customers and we are working to resolve this as soon as possible.

We apologise to affected customers for any inconvenience this has caused.

No mention of any hacking.

11.16am: BBC News is showing footage of the police van turning up at the court. It is unclear when this occurred. Photographers were there to capture the moment by taking pictures through the tinted glass (see above).

11.10am: Freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke is not impressed with the press facilities at the court. She tweets:

11.07am: A new picture of Assange on his way to the court has emerged. It is currently at the top of the blog.

11.01am: Sam Jones describes the international media scrum that has already gathered outside City of Westminster magistrates court.

10.46am: You Ask: We Search update. Today’s front page story about the Madeleine McCann investigation started as a question from a reader.

We’ve been answering lots more queries on a number of subjects including the the 2012 Olympics, Roman Polanski and the Dutch far right. We’ve had close to 1,500 suggestions so far (a lot from the Netherlands) and are in the process of prioritising and investigating them. Please tweet further suggestions to @GdnCables.

10.37am: WikiLeaks supporters are planning a protest outside the court today.

The Justice for Assange campaignis urging supporters to show up wearing Julian Assange facemasks.

Its Facebook page says: Julian Assange will be appearing at court for an Extradition Hearing & bail application please come and make your voice heard!

10.20am: RBS has confirmed that there are currently problems with its website. It says users are having trouble transferring funds between accounts on the site. The bank has played down the problems and insists that the site is not being hacked.

So at this stage, the bank is insisting, that it is entirely coincidental that news of the problems occurred on day of WikiLeaks disclosures about RBS.

More follows later…

10.16am: As well as passing on that note from her son, Christine Assange has been speaking out against the Australian government’s attitude to Julian.

9.54am: Almost half of Britons believe that the sex charges against Assange are “an excuse” to keep him in custody so that the US government can prosecute him for releasing secret diplomatic cables, according to a poll by CNN.

The CNN poll of British opinion finds that 44% of respondents in Great Britain believe that Sweden’s sex charges are just a pretext, while only 13% flatly disagree. The remaining 43% say they don’t know…

More people agree than disagree that WikiLeaks was right to release the cables, by 42% to 33%. The remainder, 25%, don’t have a position.

9.37am: Julian Assange topped the readers poll in Time’s person of the year for 2010, the magazine has announced.

Julian Assange raked in 382,020 votes, giving him an easy first place. He was 148,383 votes over the silver medalist, Recep Tayyip Ergodan, prime minister of Turkey.

The current issue of the magazine features an interview with Assange, which the magazine sent to him in Wandsworth prison.

Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens said he wasn’t allowed to see it. Stephens told the Guardian:

Time magazine sent him a copy of the magazine with him on the cover and they censored it not just by ripping off the cover but by destroying the whole magazine.

9.31am: The speaker of the Hungarian parliament has called for controls on online news reporting to stop “information terrorism”.

According to Laszlo Kover said:

“Given the leak of the documents was intentional it must be called information terrorism… It is necessary to devise a method to prevent similar cases in the future.”

9.18am: An online dating profile apparently posted by Julian Assange has been seized on by the New York Daily Post.

The profile, on the site OK Cupid, is posted under the name Harry Harrison. It says: “Passionate, and often pig headed activist intellectual seeks siren for love affair, children and occasional criminal conspiracy.”

The Post is convinced the profile was set up by Assange. It memorably headlines the article: “Lonely blond leaker seeks hottie”.

8.48am: At last week’s court hearing the nomadic Assange was reluctant to give an address. First he gave a PO box address and then an address in Australia. The Frontline Club later revealed that Assange had spent much of the last few months based at the club.

The lack of a permanent UK address is one reason he wasn’t granted bail.

But today his lawyers will offer a permanent UK address, according to a tweet from the Times’ Alexi Mostrous.

The lawyers will also suggest that an electronic tag be placed on Assange to help secure bail, Mostrous said.

7.53am: There’s no let up on the WikiLeaks news front with another busy day in store and lots more leaked cables. The main item on the agenda is Julian Assange’s appeal to be granted bail. He is due to return to City of Westminster magistrates at around 2pm with a new barrister – Geoffrey Robertson.

He faces extradition to Sweden where he is accused of sexually assaulting two women. If Assange is denied bail a second time he is expected to appeal at the high court.

Our legal affairs correspondent, Afua Hirsh, examines the “mockery of extradition”. She asks:

Why can our prisons detain someone (Assange is currently on remand in Wandsworth prison) for an offence under Swedish law that does not exist in British law? And how can a judge agree to an extradition without having enough evidence to make out a prima facie case?

Whitehall is preparing for a possible cyberattack against government websites which could coincide with Assange’s court appearance, according to the Independent.

Meanwhile, Assange has sent a message to the world … via his mum.

The Australian news site Seven News boasts a “world exclusive” with Assange’s first statement since he was locked up last week.

The statement was passed to the station by Julian’s mother Christine who travelled to Britain to visit her son.

Assange’s statement said:

My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have always expressed.

These circumstances shall not shake them. If anything, this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct.

We now know that Visa, Mastercard and Paypal are instruments of US foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before.

I am calling on the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral act

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