Julian Assange supporters plea to keep bail
Filed under: News
Another group have already lost their bail money of £200,000. So why should this group keep their cash?
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BailThe group is being represented at Westminster Magistrates Court by one of their number, Vaughan Smith, a retired army captain, with whom Assange stayed while he was on bail in 2011.
Assange was arrested in December 2010 in connection with rape and assault allegations made by two women in Sweden. The group put up the money at that point to secure his freedom while the legal arguments continued.
Assange fought the European arrest warrant demanding his return to Sweden all the way to the Supreme Court. However, after losing that battle, instead of returning to Sweden, he holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy. He claimed to be concerned that on arrival in Sweden he risked being extradited to the US, where he would face proceedings for offences on the Wikileaks website, and possibly the death penalty.
Sweden has highlighted that it does not extradite where there is a risk of an individual being subject to the death penalty, and simply wishes to talk to him regarding the allegations he faces in Sweden.
The argumentAt a hearing in September, the chief magistrate of Westminster Magistrates Court had given the group a month to persuade Assange to give himself up to the UK authorities - as he was not convinced they were "using every effort, publicly and privately" to do so.
The group have met with Assange in this time, but clearly not managed to persuade him to leave the embassy. Smith is arguing that this has gone beyond a simple matter of arrest and bail, and has become one of diplomacy between the governments of the UK, Sweden and Ecuador.
Smith's argument is that guaranteeing surety is meant to depend on the individual's ability to influence the parties involved. Given this has become an inter-governmental matter, they cannot hope to influence events, and therefore ought not to pay the price financially.
He told the magistrate: "We never envisaged when we became sureties that the matter would become a diplomatic argument and it is clear that this needs to be resolved at diplomatic level."
"We request that sureties in this case be treated gracefully, in a manner that reflects the impossible position that we are in," he said. The magistrate said he would consider the request for a matter of weeks.
The groupThis particular group is not the star-studded one which originally put up £200,000 bail. That group, including celebrities such as Jemima Khan, Felix Dennis and Ken Loach are believed to have lost their money.
This group is more eclectic. A number of them have put up £20,000 each. They include Smith himself; Philip Knightly, an Australian investigative journalist who exposed Kim Philby as a Russian spy; retired education Professor Patricia David; Lady Caroline Evans, the wife of former Labour minister Lord Evans; Wikileaks activist Sarah Harrison; Sir John Sulston, a Nobel prize-winning biologist; and environmental activist Tracy Worcester. Wikileaks activists Joseph Farrell and Sarah Harrison have also put up £5,000 each.
So what do you think, has this all gone beyond their control? Should they get their money back? Or was this the risk they took when they agreed to stand surety for Assange? Let us know in the comments.