LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released on bail Thursday, confined to a supporter’s 600-acre estate but free to get back to work spilling U.S. government secrets on his website as he fights Sweden’s attempt to extradite him on allegations of rape and molestation.

The Australian, who surrendered to British police Dec. 7, will have to observe a curfew, wear an electronic tag and report to police in person every day.

But there are no restrictions on his Internet use, even as U.S. authorities consider charges related to thousands of leaked diplomatic cables and other secret documents that WikiLeaks has released. The site has made public just 1,621 of the more than 250,000 State Department documents it claims to possess, many of them containing critical or embarrassing U.S. assessments of foreign nations and their leaders.

Dressed in a dark gray suit, Assange emerged from London’s High Court building late Thursday after a tense scramble to gather the money and signatures needed to free him. Speaking under a light snowfall amid a barrage of flash bulbs, Assange — who’s been out of the public eye for more than a month — told supporters he will continue bringing government secrets to light.

“It’s great to smell the fresh air of London again,” he said to cheers from outside the court.

Later, BBC footage captured the 39-year-old riding in a white armored four-wheel-drive vehicle outside the Frontline Club, a venue for journalists owned by his friend and supporter Vaughan Smith. The broadcaster reported that Assange had a celebratory cocktail at the bar, then went back outside to engage in a brief verbal joust with journalists over the merits of one of the leaked cables.

A few hours later, Assange arrived at Ellingham Hall, Smith’s 10-bedroom mansion about 120 miles northeast of central London. Assange told journalists there that his time in prison had steeled him, giving him time to reflect on his personal philosophy and “enough anger about the situation to last me 100 years.”

Assange was granted conditional bail Tuesday but prosecutors appealed, arguing that he might abscond. High Court Justice Duncan Ouseley rejected the appeal Thursday, saying Assange “would diminish himself in the eyes of many of his supporters” if he fled.

“I don’t accept that Mr. Assange has an incentive not to attend (court),” Ouseley said. “He clearly does have some desire to clear his name.”

The restrictions Ouseley imposed on Assange amount to “virtual house arrest,” said WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson. He noted that Assange can still use Smith’s estate as a base for coordinating publication of the leaked cables.

“There is a good Internet connection there,” he said.

The subject of whether Assange should have Internet access was never raised in court. WikiLeaks continued publishing documents even while Assange was in prison, including a new batch that hit the Web two hours ahead of his release.

“We have seen in the week I have been away that my team is robust,” Assange told the BBC outside the Frontline Club.

The publication of the cables has angered U.S. government officials, embarrassed allies and nettled rivals. Assange insists that it was essential to expose government wrongdoing.

Washington suspects Wiki-Leaks received the documents from an Army private, Bradley Manning, who is in military detention on charges of leaking other classified documents to the organization.

Assange was arrested not because of WikiLeaks, but because Swedish officials are seeking him for questioning over allegations stemming from separate encounters with a pair of women in Sweden last summer. The women have accused Assange of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion. Assange denies the allegations, which his lawyers say stem from a dispute over “consensual but unprotected sex.”

After his release, Assange said he will “continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal, as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations.”

His next hearing is set for Jan. 11.