UK court asks Assange backers to pay up bail sureties
London: Nine people who put up bail sureties for Julian Assange were ordered by a British judge Monday to pay thousands of pounds each after the WikiLeaks founder violated the stringent conditions of his release.
Westminster Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle said they must pay a total of 93,500 pounds by November 6.
Assange's supporters offered the sureties before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning on sexual assault charges.
Nine individuals have been told to pay amounts of between 3,500 pounds and 15,000 pounds.
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," the BBC quoted the judge as saying.
"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."
41-year-old Assange, an Australian national, faces arrest if he leaves the embassy after breaking bail conditions.
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 which released a quarter of a million sensitive US diplomatic cables.
Assange was arrested on an extradition warrant and is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he denies.
Last week, Vaughan Smith, a friend of Assange, addressed Westminster Magistrates Court on behalf of the nine people, who put up 140,000 pounds between them.
He said all those who had offered sureties were "convinced that they have done and are doing the right thing".