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Britain postpones Assange extradition hearing with eye on COVID-19

By DPA Published: April 28, 2020

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LONDON — A British court on Monday postponed U.S. extradition proceedings for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange amid concerns that COVID-19 social distancing rules would make it impossible to open a hearing on May 18.

Lawyers for Assange and the U.S. government agreed that Britain's near-lockdown made it difficult to prepare for the scheduled hearing and to conduct a proper court session if social distancing rules were not lifted before the hearing.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned Monday's administrative hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court until May 4 to allow time to consider alternative dates.

Baraitser said the earliest alternative date to begin a three-week hearing was Nov. 2.

Following the brief hearing by video links, supporters continued to urge Britain to grant bail to Australian citizen Assange, 48, who is held on remand at a London prison.

The U.S. Justice Department has charged Assange with conspiring with former U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.

Baraister rejected a bail request last month after Assange's lawyers argued that he is at risk of infection with COVID-19 because it is "endemic" in British prisons.

British police arrested Assange in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy for failing to surrender to an earlier warrant linked to a Swedish extradition request that was eventually dropped.

The police swooped after Quito revoked Assange's asylum status to end his seven-year refuge in the embassy.

One of his lawyers, Stella Morris, revealed this month that she is Assange's fiancee and the mother of his two young sons conceived at the embassy.

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