The wife of one of the barristers for the US may have had exposure to the virus. Tests are being taken and the outcome will be known on Friday.
Assange’s barrister Edward Fitzgerald, QC, asked district judge Vanessa Baraitser at the Old Bailey on Thursday morning to suspend the hearing until the result was known.
“We shouldn’t really be here today. COVID would be in the courtroom and it’s not possible to tell how far its extent is,” Fitzgerald said
A QC representing the US government, James Lewis, who appeared via video link from his flat in London, agreed and called for a suspension until Monday.
“It’s certainly not easy to cross-examine a person over video link,” he said. “Hopefully, if the tests are negative, we can get back to where we were on Monday. If they’re not, we’ll have reconsidered the matter and our particular options.”
The judge had wanted to resume on Friday and make another decision then but agreed to adjourn until Monday, given both sides were in agreement.
“I’m therefore willing to accede for the time being to the joint application to adjourn this case until Monday at 10 o’clock in the morning.”
The delay is the latest twist in the long-running saga surrounding the Australian. Assange’s hearing has already been delayed by months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The hearing, which restarted on Monday, was expected to run for four weeks into early October.
The US Department of Justice wants the 49-year-old extradited to face charges of computer hacking and conspiring with former US Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to steal more than half a million classified documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Assange says he is a journalist and that his human rights would be violated if he was sent to the US to face trial.
Under Britain’s Extradition Act, a judge can refuse a request for extradition if they deem that the accused’s human rights would be violated.
Assange is being held in custody at Belmarsh prison while his hearing continues.
Earlier this week, Assange’s defense team sought an adjournment until after the US presidential election but were denied.
The hearing has heard from a peace expert, who claimed that US President Donald Trump was pursuing Assange, a decade after WikiLeaks published the documents, in part because of his loathing of former president Barack Obama.
Assange faces 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act, which altogether carry a maximum sentence of 175 years.
He has attended the hearing each day this week, wearing a suit and tie, with this white hair neatly cut. However, he has been warned that his hearing could continue without him after he interrupted a witness who was appearing on behalf of his defense team.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 10, 2020