WikiLeaks founder Assange's bail guarantors ordered to pay

LONDON Mon Oct 8, 2012 11:21am EDT

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he appears to speak from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy, where he is taking refuge in London August 19, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he appears to speak from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy, where he is taking refuge in London August 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Helgren

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LONDON (Reuters) - Nine people who put up bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, including two members of the British aristocracy and a Nobel Prize winner, were ordered to pay 93,000 pounds ($150,000) on Monday after Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy.

The guarantors - who include Nobel prize-winning biologist John Sulston - are liable for part of the 140,000 pound bail fee they pledged, Westminster Magistrate's Court ruled.

They were given until November 6 to pay up.

Assange, whose whistleblowing website angered the United States by releasing thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, was arrested in December 2010 on an extradition warrant from Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women.

He denies wrongdoing and says he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he could be transferred to the United States where he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

The 41-year-old Australian broke the conditions of his bail when he entered the Ecuadorean embassy in June shortly after running out of legal options to avoid being sent to Sweden. He was later granted diplomatic asylum by Ecuador.

"Having seen and heard from the sureties, I cannot avoid taking some account of their integrity," Judge Howard Riddle said of the nine guarantors.

"I accept that they trusted Mr Assange to surrender himself as required. I accept that they followed the proceedings and made necessary arrangements to remain in contact with him," he said.

"However, they failed in their basic duty, to ensure his surrender. They must have understood the risk and the concerns of the courts.

"Both this court and the High Court assessed that there were substantial grounds to believe the defendant would abscond, and that the risk could only be met by stringent conditions including the sureties."

Vaughan Smith - one of the nine, who housed Assange for 13 months after his arrest - argued for the entire group in court last week. He had said it should pay no money at all because the case had dragged on for much longer than expected and Assange had not warned the group's members before entering the embassy.

Each guarantor must now pay between 3,500 and 15,000 pounds, having originally pledged between 5,000 and 20,000 pounds.

Three submitted details of their financial means, which were taken into consideration by the court.

"Nobody wants to lose 12,000 pounds and though my family may now live less comfortably, at least we will be able to live with ourselves," Smith told Reuters afterwards.

"We believe that we have done the right thing and have no regrets for having supported Julian Assange."

(Additional reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Comments (13)
What a joke this whole story has been and shame on the swedish judicial system for even going through this farce at the behest of US pressures.

Oct 08, 2012 11:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
jmcgeough wrote:
I too would be happy to pay up! I also believe that this case has exposed fundamental flaws in the European extradition process whereby any individual can be extradited from one European country to another without any charges being filed with a court! This is very wrong.

Oct 08, 2012 11:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
The real shame is that Assange would leave all the people that stood behind him and offered to put up bail holding the bag. He stiffed all those who supported him. Assange cold have resolved his whole situation at the onset if not for his manic paranoia. Man up and face your problems head on Assange. You have created created a nightmare you must live in for no other reason than your fear to face the consequences of your own actions.

Oct 08, 2012 12:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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