WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday failed in his bid to be bailed after he argued that he was at risk of catching coronavirus in the British prison where he is being held.
“As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not as of itself provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release,” said judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Assange is currently in the high security Belmarsh prison in south London as he fights an extradition request by the United States to stand trial there on espionage charges.
Baraitser pointed out that the 48-year-old, who followed proceedings via videolink, had already violated a bail order when he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012.
At that time, Swedish authorities were attempting to extradite him over sexual assault claims that were later dropped.
Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said there was currently no COVID-19 case at Belmarsh but 100 prison officers were off work and there was a “very real risk — and the risk could be fatal”.
Concern has been raised for the Australian’s health behind bars, and he has had a history of illness, including respiratory infections.
His full extradition hearing is due to resume for three weeks in mid-May, when witnesses will be called and cross-examined, with an eventual ruling expected by August at the latest.
But proceedings could be delayed, as court hearings have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Assange faces charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of a trove of secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a single computer hacking charge.
A ruling against Assange could see him jailed for 175 years.
Britain is currently considering releasing some inmates in England and Wales to ease the pressure on prisons, where 10 percent of staff are off work after displaying virus symptoms.
© 2020 AFP
This Europe country is housing quarantined coronavirus patients in a five-star hotel
An ambulance driver wearing a white protective gown enters a Barcelona hotel and announces the arrival of three new "customers" -- a trio of coronavirus patients discharged from hospital into luxury quarantine.
"Good morning! How are you? My name is Enrique Aranda and I am probably the first non health care worker you see in several days," says the director of the five-star Melia Sarria hotel, peering into the ambulance.
It took just three days to convert the hotel, which features contemporary decor and bathrooms with marble finishing, into a clinic.
"Some patients arrive thinking that they were taken out of hospital to be left to die, many people are frightened. I try to make them forget all that," said Aranda, wearing mask and gloves.
UK Labour to unveil new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn
Britain's main opposition Labour party on Saturday unveils a new leader who will take the helm of a defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Keir Starmer, a former director of state prosecutions and Labour's Brexit spokesman, is the runaway favourite to win the ballot of around 500,000 party members and succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
The announcement will be a low-key affair, with a planned special conference cancelled due to restrictions on social gatherings imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Instead, the result will be put out in a press release mid-morning -- and candidates have been asked to pre-record their victory speeches.
‘Trump fires people for telling the truth’: President blasted for ‘dead of night decision’ to fire intel watchdog
President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Friday for firing intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) were among the lawmakers who took to Twitter to criticize Trump on his favorite social media platform.
Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's decision:
Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.