The second part of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing has been postponed until at least September, WikiLeaks has confirmed, after parties returned to court in the UK for a brief 20-minute hearing to fix a new date.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said at the procedural hearing on Monday that, having heard from the prosecution and defense, it was clear that a July date was unworkable.
That was due to the fact that some key witnesses would not be available in July, as well as there still being no guarantee that US prosecutors will be able to fly to the UK by July if Covid-19 measures are still in place. Assange’s team, though, felt that a proposed November date would be too late.
Baraitser confirmed that another court venue would therefore be made available to hold the hearings in September – but said it would be difficult to arrange.
“It’s going to take some negotiation to find a crown court that is open in September, in the current climate, and willing and available to take this hearing,” she said, according to AAP reporter Marty Silk, one of only six journalists allowed into the courtroom due to Covid-19 social distancing measures.
Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC confirmed that the WikiLeaks co-founder didn’t attend Monday’s hearing because he is unwell. No lawyers were present in the courtroom in person either, appearing instead via video link.
The journalist’s team had appealed last month for emergency bail, arguing that it was unsafe for Assange – who has a chronic lung condition – to be held in prison given outbreaks of Covid-19 in UK jails. Baraitser denied the application.
Assange is wanted by Washington for publishing classified information in 2010 which revealed war crimes by the US military. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years.
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