ASSANGE EXTRADITION: The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture

Judge Vanessa Baraitser had a hand-written judgement ready even before she heard the defence argument that Assange be allowed to leave his glass cage, as Craig Murray observed.

By Craig Murray

In Thursday’s separate hearing on allowing Assange out of the armoured box to sit with his legal team, I witnessed directly that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling against Assange was brought by her into court BEFORE she heard defence counsel put the arguments, and was delivered by her entirely unchanged. 

I might start by explaining to you my position in the public gallery vis a vis the judge. All week I deliberately sat in the front, right hand seat. The gallery looks out through an armoured glass window at a height of about seven feet above the courtroom. It runs down one side of the court, and the extreme right hand end of the public gallery is above the judge’s bench, which sits below perpendicular to it. Remarkably therefore from the right hand seats of the public gallery you have an uninterrupted view of the top of the whole of the judge’s bench, and can see all the judge’s papers and computer screen.

Assange’s attorney Mark Summers QC outlined that in the case of Belousov vs Russia the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg ruled against the state of Russia because Belousov had been tried in a glass cage practically identical in construction and in position in court to that in which Assange now was. It hindered his participation in the trial and his free access to counsel, and deprived him of human dignity as a defendant.

Summers continued that it was normal practice for certain categories of un-convicted prisoners to be released from the dock to sit with their lawyers. The court had psychiatric reports on Assange’s extreme clinical depression, and in fact the UK Department of Justice’s best practice guide for courts stated that vulnerable people should be released to sit alongside their lawyers. Special treatment was not being requested for Assange – he was asking to be treated as any other vulnerable person.

Passing Notes

The defence was impeded by their inability to communicate confidentially with their client during proceedings. In the next stage of trial, where witnesses were being examined, timely communication was essential. Furthermore they could only talk with him through the slit in the glass within the hearing of the private company security officers who were guarding him (it was clarified they were Serco, not Group 4 as Baraitser had said the previous day), and in the presence of microphones.

Mark Summers QC (

Baraitser became ill-tempered at this point and spoke with a real edge to her voice. “Who are those people behind you in the back row?” she asked Summers sarcastically – a question to which she very well knew the answer. Summers replied that they were part of the defence legal team. Baraitser said that Assange could contact them if he had a point to pass on. Summers replied that there was an aisle and a low wall between the glass box and their position, and all Assange could see over the wall was the top of the back of their heads. Baraitser said she had seen Assange call out. Summers said yelling across the courtroom was neither confidential nor satisfactory.

In an illegal photo taken (not by me) of Assange in the court you can see there is a passageway and a low wooden wall between him and the back row of lawyers. You can see one of the two Serco prison officers guarding him inside the box.

Baraitser said Assange could pass notes, and she had witnessed notes being passed by him. Summers replied that the court officers had now banned the passing of notes. Baraitser said they could take this up with Serco, it was a matter for the prison authorities.

Summers asserted that, contrary to Baraitser’s statement the previous day, she did indeed have jurisdiction on the matter of releasing Assange from the dock. Baraitser intervened to say that she now accepted that. Summers then said that he had produced a number of authorities to show that Baraitser had also been wrong to say that to be in custody could only mean to be in the dock. You could be in custody anywhere within the precincts of the court, or indeed outside. Baraitser became very annoyed by this and stated she had only said that delivery to the custody of the court must equal delivery to the dock.

To which Summers replied memorably, now very cross “Well, that’s wrong too, and has been wrong these last eight years.”

Handwritten Prepared Judgement

Drawing argument to a close, Baraitser gave her judgement on this issue. Now the interesting thing is this, and I am a direct eyewitness. She read out her judgement, which was several pages long and handwritten. She had brought it with her into court in a bundle, and she made no amendments to it. She had written out her judgement before she heard Mark Summers speak at all.

Her key points were that Assange was able to communicate to his lawyers by shouting out from the box. She had seen him pass notes. She was willing to adjourn the court at any time for Assange to go down with his lawyers for discussions in the cells, and if that extended the length of the hearing from three to six weeks, it could take as long as required.

Baraitser stated that none of the psychiatric reports she had before her stated that it was necessary for Assange to leave the armoured dock. As none of the psychiarists had been asked that question – and very probably none knew anything about courtroom layout – that is scarcely surprising

I have been wondering why it is so essential to the British government to keep Assange in that box, unable to hear proceedings or instruct his lawyers in reaction to evidence, even when counsel for the US Government stated they had no objection to Assange sitting in the well of the court.

The answer lies in the psychiatric assessment of Assange given to the court by the extremely distinguished Professor Michael Kopelman (who is familiar to everyone who has read Murder in Samarkand):

“Mr Assange shows virtually all the risk factors which researchers from Oxford
have described in prisoners who either suicide or make lethal attempts. … I
am as confident as a psychiatrist can ever be that, if extradition to the United
States were to become imminent, Mr Assange would find a way of suiciding.”

The fact that Kopelman does not, as Baraitser said, specifically state that the armoured glass box is bad for Assange reflects nothing other than the fact he was not asked that question. Any human being with the slightest decency would be able to draw the inference. Baraitser’s narrow point that no psychiatrist had specifically stated he should be released from the armoured box is breathtakingly callous, dishonest and inhumane. Almost certainly no psychiatrist had conceived she would determine on enforcing such torture.

So why is Baraitser doing it?

I believe that the Hannibal Lecter style confinement of Assange, this intellectual computer geek, which has no rational basis at all, is a deliberate attempt to drive Julian to suicide. The maximum security anti-terrorist court is physically within the fortress compound that houses the maximum security prison. He is brought handcuffed and under heavy escort to and from his solitary cell to the armoured dock via an underground tunnel. In these circumstances, what possible need is there for him to be strip and cavity searched continually? Why is he not permitted to have his court papers? Most telling for me was the fact he is not permitted to shake hands or touch his lawyers through the slit in the armoured box.

Belmarsh Prison and Woolwich Crown Court

They are relentlessly enforcing the systematic denial of any basic human comfort, like the touch of a friend’s fingertips or the blocking of the relief that he might get just from being alongside somebody friendly. They are ensuring the continuation of the extreme psychological effects from isolation of a year of virtual solitary confinement. A tiny bit of human comfort could do an enormous amount of good to his mental health and resilience. They are determined to stop this at all costs. They are attempting to make him kill himself – or create in him the condition where his throttling death might be explained away as suicide.

This is also the only explanation that I can think of for why they are risking the creation of such obvious mistrial conditions. Dead people cannot appeal.

Only on Remand

I would remind you that Julian is a remand prisoner who has served his unprecedentedly long sentence for bail-jumping. His status is supposedly at present that of an innocent man facing charges. Those charges are for nothing except for publishing Chelsea Manning’s revelations of war crimes.

That Baraitser is acting under instructions seems to me certain. She has been desperate throughout the trial to seize any chance to deny any responsibility for what is happening to Julian. She has stated that she has no jurisdiction over his treatment in prison, and even when both defence and prosecution combined to state it was normal practice for magistrates to pass directions or requests to the prison service, she refused to accept it was so.

Baraitser is plainly attempting psychologically to distance herself from any agency in what is being done. To this end she has made a stream of denials of jurisdiction or ability to influence events. She has said that she has no jurisdiction to interfere with the strip searching, handcuffing and removal of Assange’s papers or with his being kept in solitary. She has said she has no jurisdiction to request that his defence lawyers have more access to their client in jail to prepare his defence. She has said she has no jurisdiction over his position in the courtroom. She has suggested at various times it is up to Serco to decide if he may pass notes to his lawyers and up to Group4 to decide if he can be released from the armoured dock. The moments when she looks most content listening to the evidence, are those when prosecution counsel James Lewis argues that she has no decision to make but to sign the extradition because it is in good form and that Article 4 of the Treaty has no legal standing.

A member of the Assange family remarked to me at the end of week one that she seems very lazy, and thus delighted to accept any arguments that reduce the amount she needs to do. I think it is different to that. I think there is a corner of the mind of this daughter of dissidents from apartheid that rejects her own role in the torture of Assange, and is continually urging “I had no choice, I had no agency”. Those who succumb to do evil must find what internal comfort they may.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

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29 comments for “ASSANGE EXTRADITION: The Armoured Glass Box is an Instrument of Torture

  1. Me my self
    March 6, 2020 at 14:18

    S Congressmen Ron Wyden and Ro Khanna have introduced amendments to their country’s 1917 Espionage Act which would stop journalists like WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from being prosecuted for revealing government secrets.


    About time

  2. Borbolactic
    March 5, 2020 at 07:53

    When people play games like this, gauntlets need to be thrown down and if they aren’t, then these kinds of games just persist until people die off along with nature.

    Where are all the anarchists by the way? Have a talk to some real ones and see what they say about government.

    We are all being ‘gamed’ and so it’s no real suprise about Assange’s case because it speaks about a fundamental against all people in all or most places around the planet.

    When we have fundamentals like that, like seeds of chaos, they ‘butterfly-effect’ over time and produce ‘hurricanes’ that bring everything down. That’s in part– perhaps large part– how civilizations collapse/decline.

    So the game will likely continue to be played as we continue to blow our time with it until which time as we’re all dead and gone, never mind Julian.

    • OlyaPola
      March 6, 2020 at 07:45

      “We are all being ‘gamed’ and so it’s no real suprise about Assange’s case because it speaks about a fundamental against all people in all or most places around the planet.”

      The conflation of attempt and achievement is a facilitator of gaming.

      The conflation of I with all is another facilitator of gaming.

      A more illuminating question is what is the purpose of gaming perceived by those who attempt to game ?

      A significant constituent of the purpose of gaming perceived by those who attempt to game is to encourage “… the game will likely continue to be played ( in order to facilitate) we continue to blow our time” since the purpose of all who seek to retain “status quo even in modulated form” is to attempt to arrest time through framing – framing being the game using the cattle prod of apres nous le delugeness.

      One example of this is the process of “Assange extradition” to which many react using frames of the game including but not restricted to “the rule of law” and myths of “fairness”, thereby facilitating the continuance of the game.

  3. Gary Rudd
    March 4, 2020 at 14:16

    Please don’t think that this trial is an example of extreme British ‘justice’; it isn’t. At least this is visible and known about, albeit almost certainly a foregone conclusion. There are many secret trials in Britain where defendants remain unaware of the allegations, are denied legal representatives and are not allowed to defend themselves. see:

  4. Lily
    March 4, 2020 at 02:25

    Who would have thought – ever – that Britain would sink as low as to engage in a Stalinesque Show Trial and ignore it’s own laws to please their Big Brother? Who would have thought that the Land of the Free would sink as low as to be ruled by a corrupt plutocracy whose members need to destroy a single courageous man for telling the truth about their crimes?

    There must be a tiny bit of conscience left in Judge Baraitser that makes her look for internal comfort while succumbing to evil. May this bit of conscience grow and give her the courage to fight this evil and change sides.

    Thank you Craig Murry for your report, your analysis and your kindness.

  5. coupe 63
    March 3, 2020 at 13:12

    Look closely at your future in this country, and decide what you need to do!!

  6. Jon Adams
    March 3, 2020 at 12:56

    I spent the year 2004 in Nineveh Province, Iraq with the Army National Guard.

    My attitude then was that the Iraqis were trying to kill us because we were in their country.

    Paul Bremer arrived as the new viceroy. He immediately shut down all established authority (pre-Iraqi freedom ) and confiscated the state industries ( also shutting them down in the process) to sell off to international corporations. The US Army tried to reform a new Iraqi “national guard.” The only internal reliable forces were the Kurdish Peshmerga. Everything together suggested to me that the fragmentation of Iraq was an actual intended outcome.

    I am sure that Assange revealed much of this. And that is why he is persecuted. They don’t intend for him to live that long.

    I am used to the fact that the US is run by war criminals- whether Republican or Democrat. And the UK and Australia are client states of the US empire.

    Our foils in the middle east include the Zionists, the Wahabi extremists. (Al Qaeda once again is a US ally in Syria), and certain Kurdish factions.

    The Kurds would be useful tools in fragmenting Iraq, Syria, Iran, AND Turkey. It is a confusing dangerous mess.

    So Assange has to pay for helping expose all of the above.

  7. nietzsche1510
    March 3, 2020 at 09:59

    the judge represents the Queen, the Monarchy. the people are there as a spectator. Brits, so proud of your values, enjoy the performance of your rulers.

  8. Rick
    March 3, 2020 at 07:16

    From Craig’s and other trial descriptions this has all the characteristics of a Stalinesque Show trial. Much as they would like to dispense with or avoid a public trial we are instead witnessing a heavily manipulated show trial where the verdict is not in doubt and the prisoner faces a coercive prison regime intent on psychological torture to intimidate and destroy his mental well being.

  9. A. B. Olaba
    March 3, 2020 at 06:33

    Is this a trial or a caricature of one?

  10. Eugenie Basile
    March 3, 2020 at 03:12

    She seems to be the type that takes the famous ‘ let’s drone Assange’ remark seriously….. the nurse Ratched type.

  11. geeyp
    March 3, 2020 at 02:21

    This District Judge feels that Satan will protect her.

  12. Peter Birtchnell
    March 3, 2020 at 02:06

    Iam utterly appalled, to put it mildly. Iam 70 years old and have never witnessed such an obscene,illegal and morally corrupt travesty of a court hearing. One would expect better from a country that has considered itself an example of democratic principles and a fair and just legal system for generations. It is becoming more obvious by the day that both Britain and the USA have completely lost direction and moral compass and in their fast and downward, self inflicted spiral, are desperate and are prepared to completely hold in contempt the international rules of law. Authoritarianism and corporate capitalism is becoming the new standard in the west. Some recent events in Australia also bear this out. This conspiracy between Britain and the USA should be viewed by all as a sign of things to come. It is serious, it sets precedent. May good prevail and let Julian be free!

  13. March 2, 2020 at 23:26

    Great point, JB!

  14. March 2, 2020 at 23:23

    Thank you for these updates. Julian Assange is continually in my prayers for relief from the horrible inhumane treatment he is receiving as a prisoner, when he is totally unable to control his own surroundings, positions, clothing, meals, and probably more than I know like reading material, visitors, etc. Included in my prayers are all people who are impacting his life, from judge(s) to prison guards, to visitors he may have. Julian is an uplifting example for the rest of us – an example of COURAGE to release to the public documentation of serious misdeeds by the United States – an act that he chose to do despite the risk to his own personal safety. There are so few people as brave as Julian Assange, and humanity owes him a huge debt of gratitude and respect. Those who continue his sufferings will have to answer to Almighty God when they die; God, the loving Father of us all, especially including Julian Assange.

  15. Piotr Berman
    March 2, 2020 at 23:13

    Like with Chelsea Manning, the chief objective of the treatment of Assange is to instill terror. What is being shown in this trial? The brutal force of the state. People who cross the authorities of USA, UK, Australia (but currently not New Zealand) can expect the worst.

  16. Sam F
    March 2, 2020 at 22:15

    This is a classic example of the universal judicial corruption that citizens are afraid to believe. Throughout the US federal and state judiciaries, judges serve their political party for personal gain, having been selected for tribalism, hypocrisy, and skill in rationalization. All judges work for pay-to-play party operatives (my expert knowledge is in six states), and regard their job as the subversion of the Constitution and laws for private gain of party. The corruption flows downward from the Supreme Court, so it is fair to generalize to nearly all federal judges.

    The judiciary cultivates the science of lying and nothing more. It becomes more corrupt from bottom to top, the fake judges at the bottom trying to prove their ability to lie, cheat, and steal in judicial tones. One would have to get rid of nearly every one of them to have a working judiciary.

    The public is fooled by their own dream of a judicial Santa Claus who will set things right if they are wronged. The few who read cases are fooled by judgments that simply lie about the facts. Lawyers are absolute dependents of the judiciary for survival, and many aim to be judges themselves. The mass media are dependent for survival upon the judiciary, who can easily throw a libel suit against critics. Those who know the truth and dare to speak are extremely few, and the public will never hear of them in mass media, nor listen to what it dares not believe.

    • OlyaPola
      March 5, 2020 at 08:53

      “The public is fooled by their own dream of a judicial Santa Claus who will set things right if they are wronged. The few who read cases are fooled by judgments that simply lie about the facts. Lawyers are absolute dependents of the judiciary for survival, and many aim to be judges themselves. The mass media are dependent for survival upon the judiciary, who can easily throw a libel suit against critics. Those who know the truth and dare to speak are extremely few, and the public will never hear of them in mass media, nor listen to what it dares not believe.”

      You have outlined some of the tools of coercion but missed some which may illuminate the matrices of attempts to control in order to catalyse processes to facilitate their transcendence.

      The misrepresentation “The United States of America” is a system of social practices and relations not restricted to a specific geographical location, although modulated linearly according to context.

      The whole system is predicated on derivatives of the concept “representation” – the “assignment of agency/control to others and how such is presented/perceived” – the “DNA” of the matrices of gods, princes, presidents, oligarchs et al.

      The purpose of the matrix predicated on derivatives of the concept of “representation” is to attempt to preclude qualitative lateral challenges to systems predicated on derivatives of the concept “representation” – the “assignment of agency/control to others and how such is presented/perceived” – the “DNA” of the matrix.

      “One would have to get rid of nearly every one of them to have a working judiciary.”

      To have a judiciary is to replicate the “assignment of agency/control to others” ergo to revolve around a fixed point replicating the systems sought to be transcended.

      “The public is fooled by their own dream of a judicial Santa Claus who will set things right if they are wronged.”

      Foolery has many uses and appearances can be deceptive, particularly when encouraged by apparent “non-response”.

      Transcendence is a lateral process and the purpose of the matrix predicated on derivatives of the concept of “representation” is to attempt to preclude qualitative lateral challenges to systems predicated on derivatives of the concept “representation”.

      Hence lateral processes can be presented/perceived as linear processes: such encouragement not only facilitates lateral processes of transcendence, but can also secure the complicity of those seeking restriction to linear processes – an example of useful foolery minimising “blowback”.

  17. robert e williamson jr
    March 2, 2020 at 20:27

    Well maybe it’s just me but it sure seems that of all the possibilities , the members of the intelligence community of US government the and the members of DOJ are the only entities who have a continuous history of meddling in investigations and court cases. See Bill Barr’s history pardons.

    Now it seems pretty clear to me that the same can be said about the justice system of England.

    The other thing that is obvious is that none of this is because of the Russians

    • Sam F
      March 3, 2020 at 12:10

      Add the US judiciary to the list of those who meddle in court cases (see my comment above).
      They are the pros at lying, cheating, and stealing, directly dependent upon oligarchy parties.

  18. cirsium
    March 2, 2020 at 18:19

    Deprivation of all contact is one of the torture techniques favoured by the CIA. I think that it was perfected on its MK-ULTRA programme and revived by the two psychologists for the torture of prisoners at the CIA black sites. What you are describing is the torture of Julian Assange in plain sight. Thank you for attending as a citizen journalist and for this cool, clinical writing.

  19. dfnslblty
    March 2, 2020 at 17:45

    “His status is supposedly at present that of an innocent man facing charges.”
    Extra-judicial people would be advised to speak out at this time.
    Bravo! for your reportage.

  20. rosemerry
    March 2, 2020 at 17:34

    Since the “chief judge” Arbuthnot, who should have recused herself from this trial because of gross conflicts of interest, has obviously chosen to use Baraitser as a puppet to instil her biased judgment before even hearing any arguments for the defence, this can be seen as a disgraceful miscarriage of any kind of legal process. Is this British law?

  21. Nick Baker
    March 2, 2020 at 17:06

    What a joke and such a embarrassment for the so called world’s best legal system in the world. To say the emperor has no clothes would be a complete understatement, we can now see there is one law, or rather no law for the Rich and Powerful. And a harsh, punishing law for the rest of us, particularly those that expose the corruption of those that control us. As far as Judge Vanessa Baraitser is concerned, she should be struck off, never allowed to practice at any level within the legal system and we should be demanding this, with vigour. Perhaps we need to start a advertising campaign asking for donations from the public, so we can expose this travesty of justice on the British television network, flood the airways n with advertisements supporting Assange. I am disgusted with the treatment of Assange from the British and the USA warmongering machine and government.

  22. GMCasey
    March 2, 2020 at 16:55

    I always thought that the Red Queen was a fantasy of Lewis Carroll. but apparently not. Judge Vanessa Baraitser appears to have reincarnated as that entity, although she too is proclaiming, “Off with his head.” Equally sad is that Australia has failed its own citizen, England fails its own laws, while America completes the trio of terror for a nation who rejects law. All this, for a man , Julian Assange, a publisher of Truth

  23. March 2, 2020 at 16:34

    PLEASE launch an email campaign directed to the Judge with the aim of giving her discomfort sufficient to hopefully wake her up a bit to her huge responsibility with this trial.

  24. journey80
    March 2, 2020 at 15:15

    I think you are much too generous to suggest that Ms. Baraitser is trying to evade responsibility; I think she is enjoying this to the hilt and that anything she can do or say to torment a helpless victim of her owners gives her pleasure. Only a sociopath would indulge in the behavior you describe.

  25. JB
    March 2, 2020 at 13:52

    Indicted war criminals standing trial at the international criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court (ICC) sit with their lawyers in the courtroom.
    They have been indicted for the gravest crimes sanctioned by humanity – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes involving hundreds and thousands of murders and other heinous criminal acts. The standards applied by the international criminal courts are the highest there are. They were adopted by consensus by a majority of states including the UK.
    The indictees, presumed innocent before proven guilty, are treated with respect and in full dignity at all times, including after conviction, while at the detention units of the international courts.
    How does the treatment of Julian Assange compare to that?!

    • March 3, 2020 at 22:44

      So true. My first thought was Nuremberg. Then the show trials of infamous regimes. The ones we always claimed showed how much better we were. But brutality doesn’t care. This is a procedure to claim a procedure was followed. Barely even a fig leaf.

      I would ask where are the media, including where are the alternate media, but I won’t even bother with a rhetorical question. I already know and it is to more than mere shame they are not putting in the same attention and effort as Consortium News. They are risking our lives as we think them to be (the veneer of “freedom & democracy” – whatever that really is). Almost nothing I grew up believing is true. One by one the layers of self-congratulatory state propaganda get stripped away.

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