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Assange denied bail amid virus concern

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange was refused bail yesterday despite claims that he could die from a coronavirus outbreak in jail.

The 48-year-old is being held on remand in high-security Belmarsh prison during extradition proceedings initiated by the the US, where he faces 17 charges for exposing war crimes.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that there is yet to be a Covid-19 case at Belmarsh, but Mr Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said that 100 prison officers were off work.

Mr Assange has a history of illness, including respiratory infections, and doctors’ reports suggest he is at increased risk of being infected with the deadly virus.

Refusing the bail application, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser , claimed that there were substantial grounds to believe that he would not return to face proceedings if released.

The hearing comes as the government considers releasing some inmates in England and Wales to ease the pressure on prisons, which have been put on lockdown with all visits cancelled.

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