WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a brief appearance in a London court on Tuesday and will return next month for a full hearing on Sweden's efforts to extradite him for questioning over alleged sex crimes.
The 39-year-old Australian computer expert, who has infuriated Washington by releasing details of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, has protested his innocence over claims of sexual misconduct against two women.
Assange, wearing a dark suit and dark tie, sat behind a glass screen at the top security Belmarsh Magistrates' Court during a hearing lasting less than half an hour. He is due back in court on February 7.
Assange said that his organization would press ahead with its release of documents despite his own legal battle. WikiLeaks said in December it planned to release documents that would point to unethical practices at a major U.S. bank, widely thought to be Bank of America.
Our work with WikiLeaks continues unabated and we are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials, Assange told reporters outside the court.
Those will shortly be appearing through our newspaper partners around the world -- big and small newspapers and some human rights organisations, he added.
A U.S. court has ordered Twitter to hand over details of the accounts of WikiLeaks and several supporters as part of a criminal investigation into the release of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.
HI-TECH HOUSE ARREST
British police arrested Assange last month on a European warrant issued by Sweden following allegations made by two WikiLeaks volunteers.
After spending nine days in jail, he was released on bail on December 16 after his supporters raised a surety of 200,000 pounds ($312,000).
The extradition hearing is likely to last two days. Even if he loses the case, Assange can appeal and the legal arguments could stretch on for months.
Assange said he would publish an outline of his defense later on Tuesday.
As part of his bail conditions, Assange must stay at a mansion in eastern England, abide by a curfew, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag. Assange has described the curbs on him as hi-tech house arrest.
The conditions were relaxed to allow him to stay at a journalists' club in central London on February 6 and 7 to allow him to get to court on time.
(Writing by Keith Weir; editing by Andrew Roche)