Julian Assange: Bail cash decision delayed

Julian Assange Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Assange has been inside the Ecuadorean embassy since June

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange face a wait to see if they will be asked to forfeit £140,000 of bail sureties after he sought asylum.

Mr Assange has been at Ecuador's London embassy since June, a move which has seen other backers lose £200,000 they put up in cash securities.

The 41-year-old breached bail conditions by staying in the building and faces arrest if he leaves.

Westminster Magistrates' Court is to issue a written decision later.

Mr Assange was arrested on an extradition warrant and is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

Ecuador granted Mr Assange asylum in August but the UK says it has a legal obligation to see that he is handed over to Sweden.

Swedish prosecutors, meanwhile, have dismissed Mr Assange's claims that their case is part of a wider political move to see him stand trial in the US over his work with Wikileaks.

When he was granted bail nine of his supporters offered a total of £140,000 in sureties between them - promising they would pay the court the money if he failed to show up.

One of Mr Assange's supporters, Vaughan Smith, whose home he stayed at for more than a year, addressed the court on behalf of the nine.

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

'Punishing us'

Arguing why they should not lose their money, Mr Smith told Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle: "We never envisaged when we agreed to become sureties that the matter would become a diplomatic argument and it is clear that this needs to be resolved at a governmental level...

"In this unique, this quite exceptional case, complying with what this court seems to expect from us - to all publicly urge Mr Assange to abandon the sanctuary that he has found in the Ecuadorian embassy - would see us acting against a man whom we and others judge to have understandable fears about his ultimate treatment in the United States if he abandons his asylum."

The other eight backers are retired professor Tricia David, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir John Sulston, journalist Philip Knightley, Lady Caroline Evans, friend Sarah Saunders, Joseph Farrell, Sarah Harrison and Tracy Worcester.

Mr Smith added: "We all want Mr Assange to be able to clear his name and have done everything with our diminishing influence to see the current impasse resolved and justice served."

He said the group agreed they should not urge Mr Assange to leave the embassy as that would make them "mercenary and contemptible individuals".

Mr Riddle's decision will be sent to the sureties and the press, without an announcement being made in court.

A group of supporters including the campaigner Jemima Khan, journalist John Pilger and film-maker Ken Loach earlier lost £200,000 they had lodged with the court as a condition of Mr Assange's bail.

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