Assange extradition hearing put on hold over US prosecution lawyer's Covid-19 scare

Julian Assange’s extradition trial has been put on hold over fears one of the US prosecutors may have been exposed to Covid-19.

The Old Bailey heard today that the female prosecutor, who the judge asked media not to name, was being tested for the virus today with the result expected on Friday.

Edward Fitzgerald, representing Assange, reportedly told the court: “At the moment we would respectfully submit we have to go ahead on the assumption that she has Covid.”

According to the Evening Standard, he told the judge: “If she has contracted it, we shouldn’t really be here today, coronavirus would be here in the courtroom, it’s not possible to tell how far it’s extended.

“The court staff themselves would be at risk, you yourself may well be at risk.

“And finally my client Mr Assange, whose vulnerabilities you are aware of, would be at risk being in the court, counsel would have had to consult with him repeatedly.”

In March, Assange was refused bail despite claiming he is vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak in jail.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the trial until Monday and suggested that if the lawyer’s test comes back positive it could still continue via videolink.

“One of the barristers in the case might have had exposure to the virus,” she is reported to have said.

“That is the reason the prosecution team don’t attend and some of the defence team, out of caution, and are attending remotely.

“I am told it is anticipated the testing process for those concerned will take place today. The outcome of the test will be known at some time tomorrow.”

An academic yesterday told the trial that Assange’s case “does appear to be a political trial” as he claimed the Wikileaks founder’s political opinions had put him in the “crosshairs” of the Donald Trump administration.

Earlier in the week, Assange was warned the hearing would continue without him if he continued to make interruptions from the dock while his lawyers failed to delay proceedings after he was arrested over fresh allegations under a new indictment.

Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

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