Julian Assange extradition hearing could be put back six months due to coronavirus

The next stage of Julian Assange‘s extradition hearing may be delayed until November, a court has heard.

Wikileaks founder Assange is awaiting an extradition hearing on behalf of the United States, where he is wanted for questioning over leaked defence cables a decade ago.

But his lawyers said they have been unable to take instruction from their client since the coronavirus outbreak.

In a chaotic 50-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, at which journalists listening into proceedings via a telephone line complained frequently of not being able to hear counsel speaking, Assange‘s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC said there had been no “direct access” with his client for “more than a month”.

Fitzgerald said: “There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr Assange. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible.”

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed to vacate the date for the next stage of the extradition, originally due to take place on 18 May.

A date for the resumption of the case will be fixed during an administrative hearing on 4 May.

But the judge warned that the next three-week time slot for the hearing to take place was not until November.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in east London since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy a year ago.

He did not appear in court today, either in person or via video link.

Picture: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

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