Kent

Julian Assange offered bail cash by Kent businesswoman

A businesswoman has given a £20,000 surety towards the bail of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Kent catering company boss Sarah Saunders described the 39-year-old Australian as a "family friend" and praised his "good character" and intelligence.

Wikileaks has published 250,000 sensitive American diplomatic cables, details of which appeared in the press.

Mr Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he faces sex allegations.

Earlier Ms Saunders, of Tunbridge Wells, who owns the catering company Picnic Anyway, had pledge up to £150,000 towards his bail.

'Good character'

She said: "Julian's a friend. He's a family friend. And that's the basis on which I put up surety.

"I'm not really prepared to make a comment on his work at this stage because the reason I put the money up was really to endorse his good character and to ensure that he gets fair assessment in terms of the situation he finds himself in at the moment.

"He's an intelligent and very sensitive person, extremely well-read, and literature is one of my passions.

"We talked lots about various different writers and he's also particularly fond of the countryside.

Image caption Mr Assange has defended his decision to leak thousands of secret US diplomatic cables

"He loved taking my dog for a walk and just being in the natural beauty of our surroundings here. So those are the things we share in common really, an appreciation of nature and the arts and good food."

Mr Assange was granted bail by Mr Justice Ouseley on Thursday during an appeal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

His supporters have offered to put up a surety of £240,000 to guarantee he surrenders to bail.

'Solitary confinement'

He was initially granted bail by District Judge Howard Riddle at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, pending extradition proceedings due to start on 11 January.

But he remained in Wandsworth prison after prosecutors appealed against giving him bail.

Mr Assange, who denies the sex allegations against him, has argued the claims are politically motivated and designed to take attention away from the material appearing on Wikileaks.

Talking about Mr Assange's detention, Ms Saunders said: "I can't imagine anyone enjoying solitary confinement. I think that that's one of the hardest things as a friend to imagine, someone being in that situation.

"In court, he appeared to be much paler than he has been in the past. He's obviously fair-skinned but he did look very pale.

"And I can only think that for a man who is a sociable and sensitive person, that being held in the conditions he is being held in is very difficult for him."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites