03. 05. 2020
Julian Assange’s interrupted procedural hearing will resume tomorrow, 4 May, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court at 10am. The video-linked proceedings will decide when his extradition case should restart.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser previously held that the case should resume as scheduled on 18 May, in the court attached to Belmarsh prison in southeast London, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic which has spread into British prisons and puts Assange at grave risk. Now that both defence and prosecution lawyers have called for a delay, Judge Baraitser has finally agreed to move the date.
‘The judge was forced to agree a change in the hearing date despite her previous stubborn decision that it should go ahead this month’ said Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks ambassador, ‘It’s not the first time she has had to back down from her own unworkable timetable. She now needs to urgently reconsider her life-threatening refusal to grant bail for Julian Assange’.
The extradition hearing, in which the United States is asking the U.K. to send Assange to the U.S. to stand trial for unprecedented charges of Espionage for publishing, ran for its first week in February and is expected to take three more weeks. The earliest date under discussion is in July, but it could be postponed until November.
Assange’s lawyers have consistently argued that they have not had full and unfettered access to their client throughout the case, but the situation has markedly worsened in recent months.
In court last week Ed Fitzgerald QC said that the coronavirus crisis has reduced already restricted access to unacceptable levels. He said the legal team had only had a couple of phone conversations with Assange in the last month.
Julian Assange was not even able to appear by video link at the court last Monday because he has been advised on medical grounds that moving to and using the video link room in the prison is too great a risk.
Two prisoners have already died in Belmarsh and prisoners are now locked down 23 hours a day. The government has virtually halted its prisoner release programme which was already too limited to reduce the prison population to safe levels.
The judge has previously refused to bail Julian Assange.