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Julian Assange is denied bail by judge after WikiLeaks founder's lawyers said he should be released because he is at high risk of catching coronavirus in prison

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 25/03/2020 Emer Scully For Mailonline

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(Video by Sky News Australia)

Julian Assange has been denied bail after his lawyers tried to get him out from behind bars because of the increasing risk of coronavirus.

The WikiLeaks founder, 48, was told he had to stay inside London's Belmarsh Prison because he couldn't be trusted to be at his next hearing at the beginning of next month if he was allowed to leave.

The Australian citizen's US extradition trial began in February after a US grand jury indicted Assange on 18 charges - 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act.

These included conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified diplomatic and military documents. 

Julian Assange smiling for the camera: WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London on January 13, 2020. He has been denied bail from Belmarsh Prison in London © Provided by Daily Mail WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London on January 13, 2020. He has been denied bail from Belmarsh Prison in London

He allegedly conspired with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to expose military secrets between January and May 2010. 

At Westminster Magistrates Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser told Assange the global pandemic was not enough to justify his release.  

'I have heard evidence that Assange would consider suicide before being allowed to be extradited to the United States,' she said. 'There is a high risk of extradition.

'No court wishes to keep a defendant in custody, even less so during the emergency we are now experiencing. But Mr Assange's past conduct shows the lengths he is willing to go to escape proceedings.'

Gallery: Julian Assange: A timeline in pictures (Photo Services)


Assange skipped bail and fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted at the time to answer questions on alleged sex crimes. The allegations have since been dropped. 

'Conditions imposed on him last time did nothing to prevent him taking the steps that he did,' she added. 

'At the time he made the decision to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy he was subject to a European arrest warrant. He now faces serious allegations in the US.'

'As matters stand today this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange's release. This is a rapidly changing environment.

a clock tower in front of a brick building © Provided by Daily Mail

'It is the government's responsibility to protect all prisoners and I have no reason not to rely on Public Health England to help the government do exactly that.

'No cases of COVID 19 having been confirmed in HMS Belmarsh.'

Earlier Assange's barrister Edward Fitzgerald, QC, argued he was not able to prepare properly for his extradition case in a locked-down prison.

He added that Assange was unlikely to flee because of the current global travel restrictions.

Mr Fitzgerald said: 'There is a real risk he will contract coronavirus and suffer a fatality or a serious illness.'

a group of people standing in front of a store: Asaange appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court (pictured above) over video-link on December 13, 2019. His supporters had previously demonstrated outside court © Provided by Daily Mail Asaange appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court (pictured above) over video-link on December 13, 2019. His supporters had previously demonstrated outside court

The lawyer then read out a statement from Assange's unnamed partner who said: 'He's been told all associations in Belmarsh have been cancelled.

'For 23 hours a day he is in solitary. The opportunity for infection of corona are still there because he is exercising with 40 other people in a confined space. All the fears we have have become compounded.

'He may himself die due to increased risk of exposure. All past lifelines of support for him have been shut down. I was told the weekly visits will be cut down and now I'm told they will not take place at all.' 

Mr Fitzgerald revealed he had been told 100 members of staff were off work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Assange was charged following an FBI investigation on a 'conspiracy to commit computer hacking as well as unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified information, endangering human sources'.

Pamela Anderson standing in front of a sign: Pamela Anderson pictured leaving Belmark Prison after a visit with the WikiLeaks founder in June last year © Provided by Daily Mail Pamela Anderson pictured leaving Belmark Prison after a visit with the WikiLeaks founder in June last year

The court has heard Assange had a 'thermonuclear option' he intended to use if it looked as though he was in danger of being arrested or WikiLeaks shut down.

In 2010 he released more than 250,000 unredacted State Department diplomatic cables.

The indictment said these 'included names of persons throughout the world who provided information to the US government in circumstances in which they could reasonably expect that their identities would be kept confidential.

'These sources included journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates and political dissidents who were living in repressive regimes and reported to the United States the abuses of their own government and the political conditions within their own countries at great risk to their own safety.'

a group of people looking at each other: Assange pictured as he is led out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in handcuffs following his sensational arrest by British police last year © Provided by Daily Mail Assange pictured as he is led out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in handcuffs following his sensational arrest by British police last year

Manning was imprisoned from 2010 until 2017 when her sentence was commuted, but she is currently in jail for her continued refusal to testify before a grand jury against Assange.

Assange was jailed for 50 weeks last April after breaching his bail conditions when the asylum period granted to him expired. 

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Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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