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Assange surety backers ordered to pay up

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who stood as sureties before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London were ordered on Monday to pay £93,500 ($150,000) by next month.

Assange surety backers ordered to pay up

Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle at Westminster Magistrates Court in London said the nine had to pay the sum to the court by November 6th.

Assange has been in Ecuador’s embassy since June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where prosecutors want to question him on sex assault allegations.

Britain has insisted it will arrest the 41-year-old Australian if he leaves the embassy premises.

Vaughan Smith, a documentary maker and businessman who let Assange stay on bail in his country mansion for more than a year, last week addressed the court on behalf of the nine sureties, arguing why they should not lose their money.

“We don’t see how justice is served by punishing us for having done our best to serve the public interest in this complex and challenging case,” he told the court.

“We submit that the sureties are wholly blameless, that we have worked assiduously to help Mr Assange to meet the requirements of the court.”

In his judgement, Riddle acknowledged the nine backers had acted in good faith but said they must have known the risks when they agreed to support Assange.

“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,” he said.

The nine have been told to pay between £3,500 and £15,000 each. They do not include Assange’s high-profile supporters such as socialite and campaigner Jemima Khan and film director Ken Loach.

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JULIAN ASSANGE

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.

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