Judge Vanessa Baraitser postponed London’s extradition hearing for Julian Assange on Thursday over concerns that one of the lawyers involved in the case might have been exposed to coronavirus.
The judge at the Old Bailey court adjourned the case until Monday after information emerged that one of the lawyers representing the US in the case might have been exposed to the virus. The lawyer was being tested on Thursday with the result due on Friday, she said.
Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, told the court that “at the moment we would respectfully submit we have to go ahead on the assumption that she has Covid
.” If that is the correct assumption, he said, “we shouldn’t really be here: Covid
would be here in the courtroom and it’s not possible to tell how far it’s extended.”
The hearings began in February, lasting a week. They were due to resume in May, but were delayed until this week because of the coronavirus
Lawyers have already argued that Assange should be granted bail because he himself is at particular risk from coronavirus
as he has suffered from respiratory infections and has had heart problems.
But the judge said Assange is considered a flight risk and ordered him to be kept in jail. The WikiLeaks founder skipped bail and sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden and then to the US. Assange was dragged out of the embassy last year.
He is wanted in the United States for conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables in 2010-2011. The maximum sentence he faces is 175 years behind bars.