LONDON A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Wednesday his backers had raised around half of the 200,000 pounds ($317,400) cash he needs to secure bail after he was accused of sex crimes in Sweden.
Lawyer Mark Stephens said members of the public had asked to contribute to the fund to release the Australian, who has outraged U.S. authorities by orchestrating the release of thousands of secret diplomatic cables.
Assange was in a London jail after Swedish authorities appealed against a judge's decision to free him on bail. Assange denies any wrong-doing. The appeal must be heard by Thursday evening.
"We have to come up with 200,000 pounds in pound notes and that is difficult to come by," lawyer Mark Stephens told BBC News.
"We've got about half of that right now but of course people will understand that even wealthy people don't keep that kind of money knocking around," he added.
Prominent public figures including U.S. film-maker Michael Moore, Australian journalist John Pilger and British author Hanif Kureishi have pledged their support for Assange.
"I'm getting offers from the general public who are coming in and saying we really would like to contribute to this, Julian Assange shouldn't be in jail," Stephens added.
He accused the Swedish authorities of being callous in not specifying whether the appeal hearing would be on Wednesday or Thursday, making Assange's legal bills even higher.
"Why is it that Swedish authorities are so dead set that Julian Assange spends Christmas in jail. Do they have the genes of Scrooge?," Stephens said, referring to a cold-hearted character from Charles Dickens's novel "A Christmas Carol."
The conditions of Assange's bail say he must stay at a country house in eastern England owned by a supporter, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag.
The court has asked for a further 40,000 pounds in guarantees which would have to be paid were he to disappear.
However, the Swedish authorities fear he could flee justice.
"He remains a significant flight risk and no conditions that the court can impose could prevent his flight," prosecution lawyer Gemma Lindfield, representing the Swedish authorities, told the court hearing on Tuesday.