The application for bail by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to reject contracting the coronavirus novel was rejected by a British judge.
Assange was denied bail after claiming that his release from a UK prison would mitigate his “high risk” of catching the coronavirus.
The Australian filed the application at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, with fewer than 15 people present due to the coronavirus blockade.
District judge Vanessa Baraitser determined that Assange had escaped earlier and claimed that Belmarsh prison is following government guidelines to protect detainees without confirmed virus cases.
He has accepted that government advice can change quickly, but has for now denied severe bail for the 48-year-old.
“At present, this global pandemic does not in itself provide grounds for Assange’s release,” said Judge Baraitser.
She is also concerned that, based on Assange’s past conduct, there are “substantive reasons” to believe that if released, he would not return to face the extradition hearing.
“There are no conditions that resolve this concern and this application is therefore rejected.”
Defense attorney Edward Fitzgerald QC wore a mask and his colleague Mark Summers attended via Zoom, while U.S. government lawyers called.
Fitzgerald said that Assange has previous chest and tooth infections and osteoporosis, exposing him to a greater risk from the virus.
The QC described prisons as “epidemiological pumps” in which diseases spread rapidly and claimed that the defense team had recently been denied entry to Belmarsh because 100 prison staff members were self-isolating.
“If he continues to be detained in prison … there is a real risk that his health and life will be seriously threatened in circumstances from which he cannot escape,” Fitzgerald told the court.
The attorney also raised the prospect that Assange’s upcoming extradition hearing on May 18 will be postponed due to blockade measures.
He said that witnesses abroad may not be able to travel and Assange may not be able to meet his lawyer in the locked prison.
Clair Dobbin for the United States government said that Assange’s story – including him who has been seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy for nearly seven years – has shown the high risk that he should have escaped.
“There are insurmountable obstacles to granting bail to Mr. Assange,” he said.
“It has been tested before and failed.”
But Fitzgerald insisted that Assange’s past actions should not be a basis for refusing bail.
“The focus of someone in their vulnerable position, with family ties here, is on survival, not acceptance,” he said.
Defense also revealed that Assange had a partner and at least two children who lived in the UK.
Last month, Assange’s offer to leave the dock and sit with her lawyers in court was rejected by Judge Baraitser.
The U.S. government is attempting to extradite Assange to face 17 allegations of violation of the Espionage Act and one of the conspiracies to commit cyber intrusions on the loss and publication of thousands of classified US military and diplomatic files.
Some of these files revealed alleged U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The charges involve a total of 175 years in prison.
His extradition case was updated until April 7.