Assange’s trial postponed after suspected COVID-19 exposure

The brief halt in the trial proceedings was prompted after it was revealed that a member of the prosecution team may have been exposed to COVID-19, posing risks to everyone attending

September 10, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Demonstrators hold placards and an upside down US flag in protest outside the courthouse on the third day of Assange's extradition trial. Photo: Alison Mason/Twitter

The first week of the extradition trial of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange came to an abrupt, although temporary, halt today. Trial proceedings have been postponed to Monday today by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who presides over the case, after the spouse of a member of the prosecution team contracted COVID-19.

Defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald, who represents Assange, raised concerns of a possible exposure to every person who has been present to the trial since the beginning. He pointed out that while the extent of a possible exposure to the virus is unknown, there are many risks posed to journalists, court staff, the judge, lawyers and more importantly Assange, if the court continued the proceedings.

These concerns were seconded by the prosecution, which prompted Judge Baraitser to postpone the proceedings. Journalist Kevin Gosztola, who has been live-reporting the happenings in the court since day 1, stated that the whole matter could have been avoided had remote access been made available to both the journalists and Assange.

 

The suspected prosecution member is expected to be tested today, and results will be out by Friday, bringing an end to the Week 1 of the proceedings. In the past three days, Assange’s team presented strong academic and civil society witnesses this week, and is expected to continue this next week, when the trial resumes.

These witnesses sought to bring out the political nature of the prosecution against Assange, despite the prosecution’s attempt to make it appear otherwise. They also pointed out the opaque nature of the Wikileaks indictment in the United States, with evidence against Assange yet to be shared to the public, and the threat the case poses to press freedoms.

Assange currently stands trial for a superseding extradition request from federal prosecutors representing the Donald Trump administration in the US. If extradited he will be made to stand trial under 18 charges of espionage and cybercrimes, together carrying a maximum prison sentence of 175 years.

(Inputs from Wikileaks and Kevin Gosztola)

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