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Edinburgh University Refuses to Release Lab Leak Emails Upon Request

University defends keeping emails of top virologist who dismissed COVID-19 lab-leak hypothesis secret, as doing so could affect his ‘health and safety.’

Edinburgh University has been accused of blocking access to emails that would reveal the involvement of one of its professors in promoting a widely cited controversial paper that denied the hypothesis that COVID-19 leaked from a lab in China.

In an article for Unherd, author Ian Birrell said despite multiple Freedom of Information requests, communications regarding a top virologist are being kept secret.
The investigation centres around Edinburgh University’s Andrew Rambaut’s involvement in Proximal Origin, a research paper commissioned by Dr. Anthony Fauci to push the natural origin narrative for the emergence of COVID-19 and suppress the lab leak hypothesis.

‘Risky Research’

“This influential professor, among the world’s most cited scientists, is accused of playing a key role in efforts by a cabal of prominent experts to suppress the idea Covid might be linked to risky research carried out inside a Chinese laboratory,” wrote Mr. Birrell.

However, despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act for exchanges between Mr. Rambaut—who dismissed fears that COVID-19 came from a Chinese laboratory—and others, the emails will not be published on the basis that such a move might affect the professor’s health and safety.

He said that after 27 months—and following an appeal to Scotland’s Information Commissioner—the university finally admitted it held the information that he sought. However it still refuses to release the information into the public domain.

Mr. Birrell hopes the information will shed more light on the lab leak theory and a possible cover up, which was once readily dismissed as a conspiracy, but is now gaining increasing traction from U.S. government agencies. FBI Director Christopher Wray in March last year confirmed that the bureau assessed the COVID-19 pandemic likely resulted from a lab incident in Wuhan, China.

‘The Truth Is Never Going to Come Out’

A 2023 U.S. Select Subcommittee hearing on the Coronavirus Pandemic, titled “Investigating the Proximal Origin of a Cover Up,” published emails and messages by Mr. Rambaut and others who appeared to take the lab leak hypothesis seriously before publicly dismissing it.

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Republicans claimed that former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Fauci and former National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins were directly involved in the drafting, publication, and public promotion of the paper.

On Feb. 2, 2020, Mr. Rambaut, communicating via a private Slack channel, wrote: “Given the [expletive] show that would happen if anyone serious accused the Chinese of even accidental release, my feeling is we should say that given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus, we cannot possibly distinguish between natural evolution and escape so we are content with ascribing it to natural process.”


Mr Birrell noted that Edinburgh University has admitted to being over-reliant on Chinese funding.

Documents obtained by The Epoch Times last year show that the University of Edinburgh accepted millions of pounds from China, almost £11 million from U.S.-blacklisted telecoms company Huawei, and over £39,000 from Tencent, a technology institution in China that has been accused of spying on behalf of the Chinese regime.

“Such sources of finance are not unusual at our universities, sadly, but it would be disturbing if such links were the real reason why this prestigious institution does not want to release important documents that might embarrass Beijing,” wrote Mr. Birrell.

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email: “The university was required by the Scottish Information Commissioner to disclose whether we held the information pertaining to the request, which we did. The decision did not direct the university to disclose that information, but instead concurred with our position that the university was not required under Freedom of Information law to do so.”

Mr. Rambaut declined to comment to The Epoch Times.

Patricia Devlin contributed to this report.

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