Lawyers for Julian Assange yesterday made an unsuccessful application to delay the next stage of his extradition hearing, which is scheduled to resume on 18 May 2020.
Counsel for Mr Assange, asked the court to adjourn proceedings until September 2020, arguing that the restriction imposed in response to the pandemic had made it ‘wholly impossible’ to stay in contact with Mr Assange in the run-up to the second set of hearings. Further arguments were made concerning the defence’s preference for key witnesses to attend in person, so that they can be ‘seen and heard’, rather than via video-link as planned.
Refusing the application, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that it was too soon to know whether UK courts would be operational by 18 May, and it would be premature to grant an adjournment five weeks in advance. The District Judge noted that Mr Assange is in custody and there is a degree of urgency in the case being heard, and it would be entirely appropriate for witnesses scheduled to appear in May to appear via video-link.
Mr Assange remains in custody in Belmarsh prison where he has been since May 2019, when he was sentenced to 50 weeks’ in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. The custodial period of that sentence expired on 22 September 2019, but Mr Assange was subsequently remanded in custody for the duration of the extradition proceedings due to his history of absconding.