Coronavirus concerns halts Assange extradition court hearing in UK

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced in London. (Reuters)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London was on Thursday adjourned until next week after the partner of one of the legal representatives reported suffering coronavirus symptoms.

“While the situation is uncertain, I accept hearing should be postponed,” judge Vanessa Baraitser told the Old Bailey court as she adjourned the hearing until 10:00am (0900 GMT) on Monday.

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Assange is fighting to avoid extradition to the United States for leaking military secrets.

Most members of both legal teams attended Thursday’s proceedings remotely as they awaited the test results of the ill partner, which are due on Friday.

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Assange, who was not in court on Thursday, has repeatedly raised fears about catching the virus in the high-security prison in southeast London where he is being held on remand.

“We shouldn’t really be here today, our client would be at risk,” said his lawyer Edward Fitzgerald.

The legal team for the US government agreed it would not be fair on Assange to conduct the hearing without him being able to attend in person, and backed the decision to adjourn.

Demonstrators protest against the extradition of Julian Assange, in London. (Reuters)

Demonstrators protest against the extradition of Julian Assange, in London. (Reuters)

He faces 18 charges under the US Espionage Act relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Washington claims he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the documents before exposing confidential sources around the world.

If convicted, Assange -- who has been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison for the last 16 months -- could be jailed for up to 175 years.

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Last Update: Thursday, 10 September 2020 KSA 18:08 - GMT 15:08
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