The hearing scheduled in London to determine the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain to the United States was suspended today because one of the participating lawyers was allegedly exposed to the CCP Virus. The scoop was reported by The Associated Press.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser was in charge of temporarily halting the legal proceedings. In principle it will have to wait until next Monday, Sept. 14, while the lawyer representing the United States government undergoes the corresponding tests to detect the virus.
Assange’s own lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald said that one had to assume responsibly that if the lawyer had the virus “the COVID [CCP Virus] would be in the courtroom.”
“Court staff themselves would be at risk, and you yourself may well be at risk,” he told the judge. “Finally, our client Mr. Assange, who is vulnerable, you are aware, would be at risk in court.”
At Fitzgerald’s request, the judge requested submissions from both legal teams on how to proceed if it is confirmed that the lawyer had contracted the CCP Virus. The hearing scheduled for today was adjourned for the time being until next week.
Julian Assange’s current status
Assange began a legal fight, along with his lawyers, seeking to confront the attempt by U.S. prosecutors to get the British government to send him to the United States to stand trial on espionage charges.
U.S. prosecutors charged the 49-year-old Australian with 18 counts of espionage and misuse of information and publication of secret U.S. military documents by WikiLeaks a decade ago. The charges carry a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
On the opening day of the hearing, which was scheduled to last four weeks, the founder of WikiLeaks appeared at the Old Bailey and objected to a request to be sent to the United States to answer the 18 charges against him.
According to information available to the British newspaper The Guardian, when Assange was asked if he was willing to consent to be extradited to the United States, Assange replied, “No.”
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser commented, “That was the answer I was waiting for.”
Assange is currently in Belmarsh Prison in London, after being expelled last year from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been in asylum since 2012. According to Fox News, his lawyers have been trying to get him released on bail for fear of his health during the pandemic caused by the CCP Virus, but to no avail.
Now with the hearing on hold, he must continue to wait and see if his extradition to the United States will be met or not.