The judge in Julian Assange’s extradition case said that because of the pandemic his hearing would resume in September, possibly in a court outside London.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on Monday that the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange would likely resume for three weeks on Sept. 7 if a courtroom could be found, possibly outside London.
Assange’s lawyers had submitted a petition to delay the hearing, originally scheduled to resume on May 18, because of the difficulties of consulting with Assange and of having him appear either in the courtroom, or by video-link because of unsafe conditions in Belmarsh Prison’s video room.
Baraitser agreed to the postponement because she wants Assange to be physically present in the courtroom. He was unable to attend the brief hearing on Monday because he was “unwell,” Baraitser told the court.
Assange’s defense is expected to call 21 witnesses to the hearing, many who must travel from abroad. The prosecution also agreed to the postponement, saying it might be difficult for prosecutors to travel to London while lockdown conditions in both the U.S. and Britain persist.
Journalists who phoned into a conference call to listen to Monday’s hearing could not get through, hearing music instead. During April 27’s hearing, at which Baraitser decided to postponement the process, journalists could hear 0nly about 30 percent of what was going on.
I do confirm I am unable to access the Julian #Assange hearing session today, while last time the audio was awful and I could barely hear 30 percent, this time there is no access whatsoever, @MoJGovUK . Under no circumstance, a journalist can work this way
— Stefania Maurizi (@SMaurizi) May 4, 2020
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said the inability of journalists to listen in to Monday’s proceedings made a mockery of the concept of “open justice.”
"Remember now, a day after #WorldPressFreedomDay , Julian #Assange is the only journalist in Western Europe sitting in prison, and he is sitting in a UK prison. That has to end." – @khrafnsson Editor in Chief of @WikiLeaks #FreeAssange#AssangeCase#COVID19 #MayThe4th pic.twitter.com/SkXOXpsEaH
— Don't Extradite Assange (@DEAcampaign) May 4, 2020
Outside Westminster Magistrate’s Court in central London a small group of protesters, including Assange’s father John Shipton, gathered during the hearing. Police soon showed up to break up the gathering as a violation of lockdown orders, though the Assange supporters were standing separate from each other.
— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) May 4, 2020