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Judge calls for Assange testimony in civil suit against Fox News over Seth Rich article

Says his testimony will be 'highly relevant' to lawsuit.

Published: August 6, 2020 5:04pm

Updated: August 6, 2020 7:29pm

A U.S. federal judge has asked the U.K. to assist in facilitating the testimony of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a civil suit against Fox News brought by the parents of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn said in a filing on Wednesday that Assange's evidence "cannot be secured except by the intervention of the English courts," and that such intervention "would serve to further the international interests of justice and judicial cooperation."

At issue is a civil lawsuit brought by the parents of Rich, who worked in the DNC's voter expansion division. Rich was shot and killed in July 2016 in Washington, D.C., in what police suspect was a botched robbery. 

Conspiracy theories following Rich's murder alleged that he had been involved in the hacking and subsequent leaking of DNC emails prior to death. The emails were published in part by WikiLeaks.

After Rich's death, Fox News reported that he had had contact with Assange prior to his death. The cable news network subsequently retracted the article, claiming it had not been properly vetteed prior to publication. 

The following year, Rich's parents brought suit against Fox over the article, claiming the network had perpetrated intentional infliction of emotional distress against them. Fox in turn has argued that, retraction notwithstanding, the article was not a "sham" as alleged by the plaintiffs.

In her request Wednesday, Netburn said that "evidence regarding the source of the leaked DNC emails and the communications (if any) between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks will be highly material to Fox’s contentions."

"Mr. Assange, as founder of WikiLeaks, is exceptionally suited to provide testimony that will be highly relevant to these issues," Netburn wrote. "Therefore, Fox News, by and through this letter of request issued by the District Court, is formally requesting the testimony of Mr. Assange for use at trial."

Assange is currently incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison in London for violating the U.K.'s Bail Act. He is reportedly in dire health. 

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