UK Judge Rules Assange’s Extradition Trial To Continue Despite Coronavirus Lockdown

The judge also ruled that, despite evidence the US Gov’t used soiled diapers from Assange’s children to obtain their DNA, there was no proof the US was trying to harm his family, and his partner’s identity should be made public.

The UK judge presiding over Julian Assange’s case has ruled against the WikiLeaks founder, after his legal team called for his extradition hearing to be delayed because they say the coronavirus lockdown has prevented them from meeting with him.

In a hearing on Tuesday, a representative for Assange, Barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC, argued, “In those circumstances, in his vulnerable condition, to force him to enter a full evidential hearing in May, we respectfully submit it would be unjust. We respectfully submit it would be oppressive.”

But the judge showed no mercy for Assange, arguing that because the extradition hearing is still five weeks away, that should give the courts enough time to return to normal, despite warnings that the UK’s lockdown could last until June.

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court also heard evidence that the US government tried to obtain the DNA of Assange’s children by collecting their soiled diapers from the trash, after they visited him in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.

But District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that even if the claim was true, there was no evidence that the US was trying to harm Assange’s family by stealing their DNA. She also ruled that his partner has no right to a private life, and her identity will be made public on April 14 at 4pm, leaving just a few days for a possible review from a Higher Court.

This comes after the same judge ruled that Assange must remain at the maximum security Belmarsh prison with no chance for bail. At the time, she claimed he was not at risk because there were no confirmed cases in the prison. 

But WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told RT he questions how honest the prison has been about its COVID-19 status, and whether inmates are actually being tested.

Only a few hours later that same afternoon, the first instances were confirmed inside Belmarsh and they’ve been growing ever since. And might I add, I am absolutely certain that the cases are much more than are reported. Simply, there are not testing the prison population to know exactly what is going on there,” Hrafnsson said.

He went on to note that Assange has an underlying lung condition, which would put him at an increased risk if he was released and living in normal society, let alone forced to remain in prison where the guards are potentially exposed to the virus every time they leave and come back to work.

The state of Assange’s health has become even more concerning amid the coronavirus pandemic, as a United Nations expert on torture previously warned that Assange’s imprisonment alone amounted to psychological torture. He warned against forced extradition to the United States, noting that Assange may not survive it, given his mental and physical state.

As of now, Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is still set for May 18, despite the fact that he can’t communicate with his legal team, and witnesses won’t be allowed to travel, amid a lockdown that is raising concerns the US will be able to force Assange’s extradition without due process.

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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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