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Julian Assange Backers Lose Bail Money As WikiLeaks Founder Stays In Ecuadorian Embassy

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ASSANGE
Julian Assange is wanted in Sweden over sex charges | AP

Backers who stood as sureties for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London have been ordered to pay thousands of pounds.

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said the nine had to pay £93,500 by November 6.

Assange has been in Ecuador's London embassy since June as part of his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He fears being sent to the United States if he travels to Sweden, to face interrogation over the whistle-blowing website.

He has been granted political asylum by Ecuador but faces arrest if he leaves the embassy after breaking bail conditions.

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Vaughan Smith, a friend who put Assange up at his country mansion for more than a year, addressed Westminster Magistrates Court last week on behalf of the nine, who put up £140,000 between them.

He said all those who offered sureties, of varying amounts, are "convinced that they have done and are doing the right thing".

In his ruling today, the Chief Magistrate said he accepted that the nine had all acted in good faith.

"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.

"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," he said.

WHAT THE NINE ASSANGE BACKERS MUST PAY:

  • Retired Professor Tricia David: £10,000
  • Lady Caroline Evans: £15,000
  • Friend Joseph Farrell: £3,500
  • WikiLeaks' Sarah Harrison: £3,500
  • Australian author and journalist Phillip Knightley: £15,000
  • Friend Sarah Saunders, with whom Assange stayed for a month: £12,000
  • Frontline Club founder Vaughan Smith, with whom Assange stayed for much of his extradition proceedings: £12,000
  • Nobel prizewinning biologist John Sulston: £15,000
  • Model and actress Tracy Worcester: £7,500

He continued: "I say immediately that I have real respect for the way that the sureties have conducted themselves in difficult circumstances.

"I am satisfied that what they have said and written accurately reflects their genuine views.

"In declining to publicly (or as far as I know privately) urge Mr Assange to surrender himself they have acted against self-interest. They have acted on their beliefs and principles throughout. In what is sometimes considered to be a selfish age, that is admirable.

"A surety undertakes to forfeit a sum of money if the defendant fails to surrender as required. Considerable care is taken to explain that obligation and the consequences before a surety is taken.

"This system, in one form or another, has great antiquity. It is immensely valuable. A court concerned that a defendant will fail to surrender will not normally know that defendant personally, nor indeed much about him.

"When members of the community who do know the defendant say they trust him to surrender and are prepared to stake their own money on that trust, that can have a powerful influence on the decision of the court as to whether or not to grant bail."

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