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AFP
March 26, 2020

Assange loses bid to be bailed over coronavirus

World

AFP
March 26, 2020

LONDON: 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".