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Jailed WikiLeaks founder finds celebrity support

  • Juilan Assange has vowed to fight attempts to extradite him amid sex crime claims
  • Assange claims accusations are attempt to discredit him following WikiLeaks revelations
  • Remains in UK custody pending appeal by Swedish authorities against his bail
  • Celebrities including Ken Loach, Jemima Khan and Michael Moore offer to help post bail

London (CNN) -- A court in central London this week found itself in the world's spotlight, as a small army of celebrities staked their reputations by turning up to offer support -- and bail money -- to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The 39-year-old Australian, who handed himself over to British police last week to answer a European arrest warrant over alleged sex crimes in Sweden, remains in custody pending an appeal by Swedish authorities against a judge's decision to grant him bail.

Assange has vowed to fight attempts to extradite him, arguing that the charges against him are politically motivated and designed to deflect attention from the sensitive material exposed by his whistle-blowing website.

Sweden to appeal bail decision Thursday

This stance has won him some high-profile backing, as was shown during the hearing Tuesday when some notable faces trooped into Westminster Magistrates Court determined to demonstrate their solidarity, even if it meant staking part of the £200,000 ($315,000) bail or a spare room in your country mansion.

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Despite having never personally met Assange, Ken Loach, the veteran British director of movies including "Kes" and "Sweet Sixteen," said he had offered £20,000 ($31,444) towards his bail. "I think the work he has done has been a public service," he told reporters, in quotes carried by Britain's Guardian newspaper. "I think we are entitled to know the dealings of those that govern us."

Jemima Khan, British socialite and ex-wife of former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, offered a similar amount before releasing the following statement: "I make no judgment of Julian Assange as an individual as I have never met him. I am offering my support to him as I believe in the universal right to freedom of information and our right to be told the truth."

The daughter of the late financier and politician, James Goldsmith, Khan has also been active on Twitter, and tweeted: "What happened to innocent until proven guilty? He hasn't even been charged, let alone convicted."

Assange also found prominent support from across the Atlantic, as controversial U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore pledged $20,000 from "his own pocket."

The director of thought-provoking documentaries such as "Bowling for Columbine," which looked at U.S. gun control in the wake of 1999 Columbine High School massacre, wrote on his website that he would be offering the assistance of his website, servers, 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."

I believe in the universal right to freedom of information and our right to be told the truth.
--Jemima Khan

He added: "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."

Meanwhile, Vaughan Smith, the founder of London's Frontline Club which claims to "champion independent journalism," offered to accommodate Assange, who has no British address, at his sprawling family home in order to meet another of the bail conditions issued by the court Tuesday. Assange would also be electronically tagged and required to report daily to a police station close by.

In a statement on his website he explained that his support was being offered "on a point of principle."

He added: "In the face of a concerted attempt to shut him down and after a decade since 9/11 that has been characterized by manipulation of the media by the authorities, the information released by WikiLeaks is a refreshing glimpse into an increasingly opaque world.

"I am suspicious of the personal charges that have been made against Mr. Assange and hope that this will be properly resolved by the courts. Certainly no credible charges have been brought regarding the leaking of the information itself."

Other prominent supporters at the hearing included award-winning Australian journalist and documentary-maker John Pilger, British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, and human rights activist Bianca Jagger. Pilger, a long-time critic of U.S. foreign policy, has been particularly vocal in his support for Assange and the work of WikiLeaks.

However he questioned why Assange had reportedly been held in solitary confinement in London's largest prison. "He called me from Wandsworth Prison at the weekend and his state of mind seemed pretty good," he told reporters, in quotes carried by Britain's Press Association.

"He is in solitary confinement. He is in what is known as a punishment block and we are not quite sure why. He is an innocent man who has not been charged with anything, sitting in solitary confinement -- what is going on?"

Tatchell, meanwhile, also appeared outside the court on Tuesday to express his support for the work of WikiLeaks. He told reporters: "It's quite clear that the U.S. government and other governments have kept secrets hidden from us. And we the people have a right to know. These revelations are in the public interest. It's shocking that it's taken a whistleblower to bring them to our attention."

When asked about the allegations against him he replied: "No one can know. But he is innocent until proven guilty."

However in a post on his Twitter page the previous week, he wrote: "Julian Assange might be guilty of sex crimes. But the charges look like a fix to silence & discredit him. The US is out to destroy him."

In another post he claimed the U.S. government tried to discredit Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s. Ellsberg, a former military analyst, famously leaked the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971, a classified study into U.S. decision-making during the conflict.

Bianca Jagger, human rights advocate and former wife of Rolling Stones singer Mick, also gave her support to Assange, telling reporters in central London that she was concerned that the case had become politicized. "If the police have any accusations they should let him answer for them," she said, adding that he should be treated fairly.

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