WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be put at risk of catching coronavirus if extradited to the US, a UK court heard.
Mr Assange is fighting extradition to the US on espionage charges at a four-week hearing at the Old Bailey in London.
On Tuesday, US lawyer Eric Lewis was asked about a report he has written claiming US federal prisons were failing to protect inmates from coronavirus.
Giving evidence by video link from the US, Mr Lewis told the court it was likely Mr Assange will be held in a top security prison in Colorado if deported.
When it was put to him that last week the facility registered zero coronavirus cases, he replied: “I do not dispute that. That is where we have said Mr Assange will be sent. That is the facility he is most likely to be sent to.
“Twenty-seven per cent of the prison population have Covid-19, and if he is sent somewhere else then it is relevant,” Mr Lewis said.
His assertion that Mr Assange faced 175 years in prison was also challenged by prosecutors, who said he used a “soundbite”.
“I think there is a reasonable likelihood [of him receiving 175 years], Mr Lewis said.
“The federal judge has discretion on the sentence.”
He accepted that a previous article where he was quoted as saying Mr Assange faced 340 years in prison was an error.
It was put to him that out of every other espionage case the maximum sentence has been 63 months.
Mr Assange, 49, has been indicted in the US on 18 charges of espionage and computer misuse over the publication by his WikiLeaks organisation of secret US military documents a decade ago.
He is accused of conspiring with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning was sentenced to 35 years, a term that was reduced to seven.
Mr Assange is in London’s top-security Belmarsh Prison while fighting extradition.
He has spent a year in prison after skipping bail eight years ago to avoid being sent to Sweden in connection with a sexual assault case.
He sought sanctuary in Ecuador’s London embassy until he was removed by British police officers in April 2019 after his relationship with Ecuadorian authorities soured with a change of president.
Updated: September 15, 2020 04:42 PM