Wikileaks' Julian Assange supporters ordered to pay

image copyrightAP
image captionJulian Assange's backers put up thousands of pounds in bail surety

Nine people who put up bail sureties for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have been ordered by a judge to pay thousands of pounds each.

Westminster Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said they must pay a total of £93,500 by 6 November.

Mr Assange's supporters offered the sureties before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He faces arrest if he leaves the embassy after breaking bail conditions.

Mr Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador and has been in the embassy since June.

He says he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he will be sent to the US to be questioned about the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website - but this has been denied by Swedish prosecutors.

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

Good faith

Nine individuals have been told to pay amounts of between £3,500 and £15,000.

The judge said he accepted they 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," 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."

'Difficult circumstances'

Vaughan Smith, a friend of Mr Assange, addressed Westminster Magistrates Court last week on behalf of the nine people, who put up £140,000 between them.

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

The chief magistrate decided each of the backers had to pay part of the sum originally pledged, under the 1980 Magistrates Court Act.

They were as follows: retired professor Tricia David £10,000, Lady Caroline Evans £15,000, Joseph Farrell £3,500, Sarah Harrison £3,500, journalist Phillip Knightley £15,000, friend Sarah Saunders £12,000, friend Vaughan Smith £12,000, scientist Sir John Sulston £15,000 and Tracy Worcester £7,500.

He said: "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."

The UK has said it has a legal obligation to see that Mr Assange is handed over to Sweden.

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