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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange making new bail bid

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The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks is appearing in court in London in a fresh attempt to secure bail.

Julian Assange, 39, denies sexually assaulting two women in Sweden and is fighting extradition.

Mr Assange was refused bail last week despite the offer of sureties from figures including film director Ken Loach and journalist John Pilger.

A number of protesters gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing.

They have been joined outside City of Westminster Magistrates' Court by a large crowd of reporters and a number of Mr Assange's high-profile supporters.

Journalists inside the court room have been given permission by the judge to report on proceedings live via micro-blogging website Twitter.

The BBC understands that Geoffrey Robertson QC, representing Mr Assange, has told the judge that 10 "distinguished figures" are offering sureties to help secure bail.

'Brave son'
Entering the court earlier, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told reporters: "The denial of bail looks like victimisation.

"I think it's absolutely wrong that he is being treated in this way."

Earlier, Christine Assange told Australian television station Channel 7 that she had spoken to her son in prison.

"I told him how people all over the world, in all sorts of countries, were standing up with placards and screaming out for his freedom and justice and he was very heartened by that," she said.

"As a mother, I'm asking the world to stand up for my brave son."

Ms Assange also read a statement from him, which she had copied down when he spoke to her from Wandsworth Prison. In it, he defended the actions of Wikileaks, adding: "My convictions are unfaltering."

His lawyer Mark Stephens said he had not been given any of his post - including legal letters - since being remanded in custody.

"He has absolutely no access to any electronic equipment, no access to the outside world, no access to outside media," he said.

Mr Stephens said the only correspondence his client had received was a note telling him that a copy of Time magazine sent to him had been destroyed because the cover bore his photograph.

'Politically motivated'
In his first appearance at court last week, District Judge Howard Riddle refused Mr Assange bail on the grounds he could flee.

He is accused of having unprotected sex with a woman, identified only as Miss A, when she insisted he use a condom.

He is also accused of having unprotected sex with another woman, Miss W, while she was asleep.

Mr Assange claims the charges are politically motivated and are designed to discredit him.

In recent weeks, Wikileaks has published a series of US diplomatic cables revealing secret information on topics such as terrorism and international relations.

The latest release, published by the Guardian newspaper, shows that the US had concerns after the 7 July bombings that the UK was not doing enough to tackle home-grown extremists.

Another cable claims British police helped "develop" evidence against Madeleine McCann's parents after she went missing.

'Great stories'
Jemima Khan, sister of Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, was also among those to attend the court hearing on Tuesday.

Journalist John Pilger, who like Ms Khan had offered to pay a surety to secure Mr Assange's release on bail, told the BBC. "I spoke to Julian Assange in Wandsworth Prison and he told me they put him in solitary confinement in a punishment block. This is ridiculous."

Asked about Wikileaks, Mr Pilger added: "This should be the heart of journalism. The really great stories - the ones that tell us how the world works, help us to make sense of the world - invariably come from whistle-blowers."