Posted on October 10, 2012
* Assange’s move to shelter in embassy broke bail conditions
* Judge says guarantors knew risk of his absconding was high
* Wikileaks leaking of U.S. cables angered Washington
By Isla Binnie
LONDON, Oct 8 (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 Nov. 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
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
“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.”