News Julian Assange too ‘unwell’ to attend latest UK court hearing

Julian Assange too ‘unwell’ to attend latest UK court hearing

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London on January 13. Photo: Reuters
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has refused to attend his call over, with a UK court still unable to find a new venue for his next extradition hearing.

The Australian had been due for a regular call over hearing via videolink on Monday in the Westminster Magistrates Court.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said the court had received an email from Belmarsh prison, saying Assange was “refusing to attend the hearing and refusing to sign a refusal form”.

When asked if the 48-year-old was too “unwell” to attend, his barrister Edward Fitzpatrick said the defence lawyer Gareth Pierce had sent the court an email on Friday outlining Assange “had respiratory problems for some time”.

Meanwhile, Judge Baraitser said the court was yet to find an alternative venue for Assange’s next three-week extradition hearing set for September 7.

Prosecution barrister James Lewis also said his team had been unable to conduct a psychiatric assessment of Assange because they were still unable to access the prison.

The date of both the prosecution and defence’s psychiatric reports on the Australian has been pushed back to July 31.

Mr Lewis also mentioned that new evidence – not in response to prosecution evidence – had been served by the defence and would need to be examined to determine admissibility.

The judge ordered the prosecution’s new skeleton argument to be presented to the court on August 25 with the defence skeleton argument due on September 1.

Judge Baraitser ordered Assange’s next call over hearing to be on June 29 with the search for a new venue to continue.

It’s understood that’s difficult due to the huge backlog of cases in the UK, exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser also wants to limit Assange’s travel time between Belmarsh prison and the courtroom.

The 48-year-old faces 17 charges of violating the US Espionage Act and one of conspiring to commit computer intrusion.

He’s accused of publishing thousands of secret US diplomatic and military files, some of which revealed alleged war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The charges carry a total of 175 years’ imprisonment.

The latest developments come as Australian lawyers, politicians, legal identities and non-government organisations wrote to Foreign Minister Marise Payne to support a bail application for Assange.