By Colombo Telegraph –
“Sureties posted at Westminster magistrates court by group of celebrities and activists now in jeopardy after WikiLeaks founder seeks asylum in Ecuadorean embassy”, the Guardian’s Robert Booth reports.
A leading criminal lawyer said that following Assange’s decision to seek asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and breach the terms of his bail, they would have to persuade the courts why they should not forfeit their money and prove they had done all they could to prevent him breaking the court order.
A group of celebrities and activists, including the socialite Jemima Khan, film director Ken Loach and publisher Felix Dennis, posted cash security of £200,000 to Westminster magistrates court with a further £40,000 as promised sureties when Assange was freed in December 2010.
“The people who have posted the money would have to go to court and plead their case as to why they shouldn’t lose their money,” said Oliver Lewis, partner at solicitors Powell Spencer and Partners. “There would have to be a pretty good reason why the money shouldn’t be forfeited. Usually the court says ‘thank you very much, you have lost your money’. You have to show that you have been vigilant and put every effort in to stop it happening.”
Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club for journalists, hosted Assange at his Norfolk home for over a year and stands to lose £20,000.
“It is not clear to me whether I have a liability but either way I am concerned,” he said. “I do believe Julian genuinely feels he will be sent to America – and of course I think the money is important because it relates to the welfare of my wife and children, but they don’t feel they are at risk of being sent to America.
“I remain a supporter and it is important we recognise he is a western dissident. There are a lot of people who believe the work he did at WikiLeaks was in the public interest.”
Khan confirmed on Twitter that she had also posted bail money for Assange. “I had expected him to face the allegations,” she said. “I am as surprised as anyone by this.”
Tracy Worcester, the model and actress turned environmental campaigner, confirmed that she had put up a surety for Assange but said she had not yet been able to speak to his legal team about the latest developments and declined to comment further.
The human rights activist Bianca Jagger denied reports that she had contributed to the bail money, tweeting: “I would like to set the record straight. I didn’t post bail for Julian Assange.”
A spokeswoman for the courts service said it was normal for breaches of bail to be considered at the court that set the bail conditions in the first place, in this case Westminster magistrates court.
“What happens to the money will be decided by a judge if and when he is brought back before the court,” she said. “It depends on what the police say about what they think a person has done and what should follow on from that.”