By RICHARD WOOD
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
An independent news video journalist is set to lose thousands of pounds after putting it forward to host Julian Assange in his Ellingham Hall home.
Vaughan Smith is one of nine set to lose part of the money they paid as surety for the creator of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, after a ruling by the Chief Magistrate at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Mr Smith and his family welcomed Mr Assange into their home, near Bungay, between December 2010 and December 2011, but now all of those who paid surety will have to pay some of it back after Mr Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Mr Smith, 49, will have to pay £12,000 of the £20,000 he put forward, while others will pay sums between £3,500 and £15,000.
Mr Smith had addressed Westminster Magistrates’ Court last week on behalf of the nine, who put up £140,000 between them.
He said all those who offered sureties, of varying amounts, are “convinced that they have done and are doing the right thing”.
In his ruling, the Chief Magistrate said he accepted that the nine had all acted in good faith, but that the had failed in their basic duty to ensure he surrended.
He said: “In declining to publicly (or as far as I know privately) urge Mr Assange to surrender himself they have acted against self-interest. They have acted on their beliefs and principles throughout. In what is sometimes considered to be a selfish age that is admirable.”
Mr Assange, who is facing sex crime allegations in Sweden, is still in the Ecuadorian embassy in London having been granted political asylum in the South American country.
Mr Smith has previously spoken to the EDP of his surprise that Mr Assange went to the embassy and said he thought the Swedish authorities should interview him in the embassy, with Mr Assange convinced that he would be extradited to America for further court action if he travelled to Sweden.
Claims were also made earlier this month that the WikiLeaks group had been offered the chance to move to Sealand, an independent mini-state based on an old war-time fort off the coast of Felixstowe, where it is believed they would have immunity from prosecution.
Prince Michael Bates admitted there had been contact with Assange’s organisation but would not divulge the details – or whether Sealand had entered into an agreement to help.