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Julian Assange fails in bid to be released from prison amid coronavirus pandemic

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been refused bail despite claiming he is vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak in jail.

The 48-year-old is being held on remand in high-security Belmarsh prison, in south-east London, ahead of an extradition hearing.

Assange is fighting to avoid being sent to the US to face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion after the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

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He appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by video-link today for a bail application represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC, who arrived at court wearing a surgical mask.

The court heard there is yet to be a Covid-19 case at Belmarsh but Fitzgerald said that 100 prison officers were off work, adding: “We say there’s a very real problem, a very real risk and the risk could be fatal.”

But District Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused bail and said: “As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release.”

Assange’s extradition hearing began last month and is scheduled to continue with three weeks of evidence from 8 May.

Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

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