Supporters of Assange fear loss of £240,000 bail
SUPPORTERS OF WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing extradition to Sweden from Britain, face losing up to £240,000 (€297,000) that they posted for his bail, following his decision to seek asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
The dramatic move by the Australian on Monday evening has surprised many of them, and the man who gave him sanctuary in his Norfolk home said he would have advised against it.
Vaughan Smith, who let Mr Assange live at his 10-bedroom home, Ellingham Hall, for more than a year after he was released on bail, said he was worried about losing the bail money.
The UK supreme court decided this month that Mr Assange could be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about sexual assault charges on two women there.
The Australian claims that the Swedish authorities would agree to extradite him to the United States, where he is wanted for questioning over the publication of secret US diplomatic cables.
The British government, under its laws, would have to give permission to the Swedes to extradite Mr Assange.
The Americans, meanwhile, have made no attempt to seek his extradition from Britain.
Mr Assange is staying in a room in the small embassy. However, he can be arrested by police if he makes any attempt to leave – including any attempt to fly to Ecuador.
Ana Alban Mora, the Ecuadorean ambassador, said her country has “a long and well-established tradition of supporting human rights”, but does not want to interfere with the processes of either the UK or Swedish governments.
In her statement, the ambassador offered no support to the WikiLeaks founder, which was interpreted as a sign of irritation over Ecuador being dragged into the controversy.
“I welcome the statement from the UK government last night in which they stated that they would work with the Ecuadorean government to find a resolution,” she said.
So far, the British government and police authorities appear happy not to escalate the situation, and have stationed a small number of police officers around the embassy.
One of the WikiLeaks founder’s longest supporters, Gavin MacFadyen, said Mr Assange was “in very good humour” and that the generosity of the Ecuadoreans had been “impressive and moving”.
Mr Assange’s extradition was scheduled to take place at the end of the month. He had abandoned a last-minute challenge to the European Court of Human Rights.
Legal experts in London yesterday said he had very little chance of success before the Strasbourg court if he did go there because it would not wish to intervene in legal actions in mid-stream.