Assange's Celebrity Donors Were Left High and Dry

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If your friends gave you $376,000 to stay out of jail, the least you might want to do is drop a hint that you're skipping town. But none such courtesies were extended to Julian Assange's donors such as Michael Moore, who now face losing all the bail money they posted for the WikiLeaks founder. Early this year the filmmaker joined other donors including British socialite Jemima Khan and Australian journalist John Pilger as sureties for Assange's bail by helping to post £240,000. The list of Assange allies also includes those who agreed to pay 20,000 pounds ($31,000) in surety to be paid later such as former British army captain Vaughan Smith and catering business mogul Sarah Saunders. Each one now faces losing that money because of the WikiLeaks founder's bid for asylum in Ecuador. Who knew radical transparency was so expensive? 

Today, the Assange camp is trying to convey unity among its financial supporters and said that everyone's bail money will be returned. Speaking with Australia's, Christine Assange, Julian's mother, said the process of her son getting asylum from Ecuador should resolve the problem of the bail money. "Julian told me that the asylum process is internationally recognised as a legitimate form of appeal and that the bail should not be forfeited." She also said that "the people who gave surety for his bail support his action." Are either of those claims true?

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In terms of whether Assange violated his bail conditions, British authorities have been unambiguous: He most definitely did. According to The Wall Street Journal, authorities say he violated his overnight curfew and given that each donor agreed to forfeit that money if Assange violated his bail terms, they're on the hook. Assange's lawyers however insist that if Assange is granted diplomatic status, the bail money will be restored. (We'll find out today if that's the case, as Ecuador is poised to announce its decision.)

Did Assange's financial backers support his decision to seek asylum? It's impossible to say, because he never told them about his decision in advance. On Tuesday, backer Jemima Khan said she was blindsided: 

Turns out, she wasn't the only one who was out of the loop. Reuters' Mark Hosenball reports that Assange had the chance to spill the beans during a dinner party on Sunday night with those who provided his bail money. Unfortunately for them, he didn't. "During the course of the party, the supporter said, Assange did not even hint that he was contemplating an attempt to avoid extradition by asking Ecuador for asylum." 

Meanwhile, Michael Moore has voiced support for Assange's asylum bid, but Khan and Pilger have remained tight-lipped. Others, such as Vaughan Smith, a former British army captain who housed Assange, sounds downright unhappy in a conversation with The Wall Street Journal. "I'm slightly concerned that I may have guaranteed 20 grand to be paid later," he said. "The interests of my family are obviously impacted by the loss of that sort of money."

That sure is some way to treat your friends. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.