Yesterday morning at Westminster Magistrates Court, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange missed his third hearing in a row due to ill health.
His lawyers told the court he was too ill to attend via videolink from Belmarsh prison and was suffering from a “respiratory problem”. Assange’s partner Stella Morris explained later that Assange’s doctor had advised him not to visit the videoconferencing room to minimise his chance of exposure to coronavirus.
Assange has a chronic lung condition and his health has been ruined by years of psychological torture and medical neglect. He is now effectively being tried in absentia, under pain of a potentially fatal contraction of COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic is being used to further impede Assange’s ability to conduct his defence against Espionage Act charges brought by the United States government carrying a 170-year prison term. Since a public health lockdown was implemented in British prisons in March, Assange has been unable to meet his lawyers in person and his communications by phone have been minimal and disrupted.