Mary Kostakidis: Assange’s Very Life Is at Stake

Julian Assange will soon find out whether he will be granted a final appeal in the U.K. in his fight against extradition, or will soon face the cruel vengeance of the U.S., says Mary Kostakidis.

By Mary Kostakidis

In Julian Assange’s extradition case, Magistrate Judge Venessa Baraitser determined he would not survive imprisonment in a U.S. Supermax facility – that he is very likely to commit suicide.

One of the final witnesses in the 4 week extradition trial in 2020 was an American lawyer whose client Abu Hamza was held in ADX Colorado where Julian is likely to be sent. Abu Hamza has no hands. He was extradited from the U.K. following assurances by the U.S. that the prison system was able to deal with the special requirements of such a prisoner.

His lawyer testified that despite assurances he would not be placed in total isolation, that is indeed where he was kept, under Special Administrative Measures, and the U.S. had also failed to delivered on other undertakings to protect his human rights – he did not have a toilet in his cell he could operate – he was stripped of all dignity, contrary to guarantees.

In the case of David Mendoza Herrera, the Spanish government successfully pursued the return of their citizen who was extradited to the U.S. following assurances the U.S. reneged on – a process that took many years while the prisoner attempted first to seek redress in the U.S. but ultimately only succeeded after suing the Spanish government for failing to protect his rights. It was forced to act after the Spanish Supreme Court virtually threatened to suspend the Spain-U.S. Extradition Treaty.

The assurances provided by the U.S. in their 2021 High Court Appeal of the District Court’s decision in Assange’s case were not tested in Court. They were automatically accepted, a judge expressing complete confidence in the reliability of a guarantee from the United States Government, and differentiating between the guarantee of a State and that provided by a Diplomat.

(Whilst a Diplomat’s assurance may involve a different signature at the bottom of the page, surely it appears there only after the boss’s approval, but evidently this makes a difference).

Significantly however, the assurances were also conditional — they could be revoked at any time, so not worth the paper they were written on, no matter who signed them.

Since that decision was handed down though, the U.K. Supreme Court has delivered a landmark ruling in a case where the U.K. government had accepted assurances provided by a foreign government (Rwanda). It determined that such assurances cannot be automatically accepted – that there is a requirement for ‘meaningful, independent, evidence- based judicial review focusing on the protection of human rights on the ground in that country’.

In Julian’s case, it is the human rights of national security prisoners in the U.S., their treatment and the conditions in which they are kept.

The U.N. considers solitary confinement beyond 2 weeks as torture – special rapporteurs have been arguing this for decades. In condemning the treatment of Chelsea Manning in a U.S. prison, then Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said:

Prolonged solitary confinement raises special concerns, because the risk of grave and irreparable harm to the detained person increases with the length of isolation and the uncertainty regarding its duration… I have defined prolonged solitary confinement as any period in excess of 15 days. This definition reflects the fact that most of the scientific literature shows that, after 15 days, certain changes in brain functions occur and the harmful psychological effects of isolation can become irreversible.” [Emphasis added.]

Abu Hamza has been in solitary confinement for nine years. His lawyer testified walking was too painful for him because his toe nails were so long, and his pleas for them to be cut were ignored.

Significant Recent Changes in Assange’s Health

The automatic acceptance and reliability of the assurances were not the only problem at that time.

A serious problem that arose during that hearing was its failure to note or take into account the change in Julian’s medical condition. It is a critical failure because the decision delivered was based on assurances the U.S. prison system could mitigate against his known risk factors – the risk he would commit suicide. But he had developed another serious physical risk factor.

After the four-week Extradition hearing in the lower court where Assange appeared boxed in a glass booth at the back of the court where he was prevented from communicating with his lawyers, he was permitted to appear via videolink from Belmarsh at subsequent substantive hearings.

At the start of the U.S. Appeal there was a brief pre-hearing chat between Assange’s lawyer and the judge to the effect that the defendant has elected not to appear due to an increase in medication.

It was extraordinary and inconceivable he would choose not to observe the hearing via videolink. Indeed I was later informed by his wife Stella he had wanted to appear but had not been permitted to by the prison.

Both his absence and the explanation flagged a problem.

Nils Melzer. (U.N. Photo)

Assange had not missed a single hearing. He had shown great determination in his struggle to engage with the drama unfolding in court despite enormous challenges such as not being able to attract his lawyers’ attention (after being denied the tools and time to prepare for his own defence), and in spite of medication and a dramatic deterioration in his health as was so throughly documented by former U.N. Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer in his book The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution.

Why was he so heavily medicated so as not to be able to sit in the video-link room at Belmarsh? What had necessitated this increase in medication? This question was directly pertinent to the decision the court had to make, but I heard no question from the judge about it and the hearing proceeded.

Then, remarkably, some time into the hearing, Julian appeared.

We journalists observing via a link could see him in a window on our screens. He would have been able to see and hear the judge, and those in the courtroom would be able to see him on a monitor as we could.

He looked mighty unwell, not only drugged. He had to use his arm to prop up his head but one side of his face was noticeably drooping and one eye was shut.

During these hearings we were given very occasional, brief glimpses of the defendant – time enough to note he is still observing his own legal proceeding, be it in a depersoned way. I asked the video link host on the chat facility to show us more of the defendant – we needed a better and more frequent look at him as he looked unwell.

Journalists are warned when we join the video-link that using the chat facility for anything other than communicating about technical issues and only with the host (hearings were frequently hamstrung by audio problems) could result in access being withdrawn. But many of the other 30 or so journalists on the link were sending Me Too messages on the Chat. Remarkably and to my relief the host obliged & we were shown Julian more often and for longer than in any previous hearings.

So after the bizarre news Julian was not going to attend his own hearing, the second thing I could not understand is that given his condition when he did appear, there were no questions or adjournment. Those deciding his fate were not perturbed by his state, or had failed to notice what was immediately evident to us.

Julian persisted in his attempt to focus, but he was clearly severely hampered. He eventually gave up, stood up & moved away from the monitor camera. It was as if he could no longer abide the humiliation of being scrutinised by people unknown, witnesses to a feeble, failed attempt to command his body and mind, a mind that has been razor sharp and never before let him down.

The public learnt some nine weeks later, and days after the judgement came down clearing the way for Julian’s extradition, that he in fact had had a TIA – a Transient Ischemic Attack or minor stroke – often a precursor to a major, catastrophic one when prompt access to an MRI machine would be vital if his life was to be saved.

I don’t know whether it is known, exactly when Julian had the stroke. The monitoring of prisoners is not exactly tailored to pick up and quickly respond to such silent stealthy symptoms. Did the stroke occur before the hearing? Was that why he was so heavily medicated? Or did it occur at the time of the hearing?

One thing is clear – he has had a stroke, so his condition has changed, and the assurances accepted took no account of this, though the Court’s decision was handed down long after he had the stroke and a fewsdays before it was finally made public.

One of the two Justices presiding over the U.S. Appeal, Ian Duncan Burnett, was the Chief Justice of the High Court at the time. His decision in the case of U.K. citizen Lauri Love set a precedent where extradition to the U.S. was denied on the basis of a medical condition.

This engendered a little hope that he may not reverse the District Court’s decision in Julian’s case. But as Law Professor Nils Melzer remarked, you don’t need the Chief Justice on a case where he has already set a precedent that can be followed. However you do need him if his precedent is to be overturned.

Throughout the hearing, the Love decision loomed large in our minds and Love was present in Court, but we realised this potential pathway was a dead end when it was finally raised by Julian’s lawyers.

The Chief Justice responded swiftly, dismissively and categorically: ‘Oh but that was an entirely different case. He had eczema.’ (Verbatim to my memory)

So the difference between being extradited or not, was eczema, and there would be no joy for Julian in this court despite the marked deterioration in his physical and psychological health.

Julian sought leave to appeal the decision of the High Court, in the Supreme Court, but that Supreme Court’s determination was that there were no arguable points of law to form a basis for an Appeal.

The Upcoming Hearing

Royal Courts of Justice, where Swift made his judgement. (Joe Lauria)

Over two days on Feb. 20-21, a panel of two High Court judges will rule on whether Julian can appeal both the Secretary of State’s decision to extradite him and Judge Baraitser’s decision on the basis of all the grounds he argued which she knocked back, such as the political nature of the prosecution and the impossibility of a fair trial for him in the U.S..

The reliability and adequacy of the U.S. assurances that he will not be held in a super max prison, nor under S.A.M.s, that his suicide can be prevented, that he would be returned to Australia to serve out a sentence at some point, have not been tested in court, and now the medical condition for which they were  furnished has changed. And in the meantime there has been a landmark ruling by the [U.K.] Supreme Court in another case, regarding the necessity for judicial review of foreign govt assurances.

A letter very early this year to the U.K. home secretary from a cross party group of our Parliamentarians is an important and timely one, requesting he “undertake an urgent, thorough and independent assessment of the risks to Mr. Assange’s health and welfare in the event he is extradited to the United States.”

Assange has made an application to attend this month’s hearing in person so he can communicate with his legal team.

The judges may make an immediate decision at the conclusion of the two-day hearing or reserve their judgement.

If Assange wins this case, a date will be set for a full Appeal hearing.

If he is denied the right to appeal there are no further appeal avenues at the domestic level.

He can then apply to the European Court of Human Rights, which has the power to order a stay on his extradition – a Rule 39 Instruction, which is only given in “exceptional circumstances”. It may however be a race to lodge the Appeal before he is bundled off on a plane to the U.S.

If Julian Assange is extradited and the U.S. is successful in prosecuting him he will not receive a fair trial there and unlikely to receive the constitutional protection afforded to its own citizens, the U.S. will have redefined in law, investigative journalism as ‘espionage’.

It will demonstrate that U.S. domestic laws, but not protections, apply internationally to non-U.S. citizens.

It will have cost Assange his freedom & likely his life – an example to anyone who attempts to discredit the state sanctioned narrative. A narrative that has been shattered by independent and citizen journalists in Gaza – explosively, daily, globally, and irrevocably.

This is the text of a speech delivered by Mary Kostakidis to a conference on Julian Assange held in Sydney, Australia on Jan. 29. 

Journalist Mary Kostakidis presented SBS World News for two decades as Australia’s first national primetime news anchorwoman. Previous articles include “Watching the Eyes” for Declassified Australia. She covers Julian Assanges’s extradition court proceedings live on Twitter.

16 comments for “Mary Kostakidis: Assange’s Very Life Is at Stake

  1. Billy Field
    February 6, 2024 at 15:39

    Excellent work thankyou Mary Kostakidis. DO please share everybody.

  2. LeoSun
    February 6, 2024 at 12:21

    TY, Mary Kostakidis, for “crack’n the code,” Audio w/Text, is always a Bonus! Regardless of the bone chilling content/message/truth, “Assange’s Very Life is At Stake.” HENCE, the “ask,” of one of the highest offices in the UK government, i .e., “with all due respect, Honourable, UK Home Secretary, “Please, Rescue the One in Most Need, Julian Assange.”

    ……. “undertake an urgent, thorough and independent assessment of the risks to Mr. Assange’s health and welfare in the event he is extradited to the United States.”

    Exhibit A-Z: The U.S. Supermax facility is ‘The Alcatraz of the Rockies.’

    …….. “Just two hours outside of Denver, in the parched Rocky Mountain foothills, sits the highest-security prison in America. Its official name is the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, but everyone calls it the ADX. The ADX in Florence, Colorado, is the one and only federal “Supermax” prison, home to the most dangerous and escape-prone inmates in federal lockup.”

    “At other prisons, inmates are placed in solitary confinement for short stints in response to violent or aggressive behavior. Corrections officials call this type of punitive solitary confinement “administrative segregation,” better known as “the hole.” At ADX, also known as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies,” the entire prison is essentially “the hole.”

    …….“Robert Hood, a former warden at the ADX told The New York Times that the ADX was “[NOT Designed for Humanity],” not designed for humanity. When it’s 23 hours a day in a room with a slit of a window where you can’t even see the Rocky Mountains — let’s be candid here. It’s not designed for rehabilitation. Period. End of story.” DAVE ROOS MAY 23, 2022 @

    Imo, Answers & Resolutions play out in Song. * HIT IT……”U n c h a i n, My Heart. [you got me’ under your [thumb] spell. Like a man in a trance; But, I know darn well, THAT [I STILL GOT A CHANCE] i.e., “APPEAL,” to the European Court of Human Rights, “Unchain my heart. Let me go my way.”

    …. “Unchain my heart. You worry me night and day. Why lead me through a life of misery? When you don’t care a bag of beans for me!!! Sooooo, unchain my heart, SET ME FREE!!!” * Hugh Laurie-from Ocean Way Studios @

    “Save the Date:” February 21-22, 2024. TY. “Keep It Lit!!!” Ciao

  3. WillD
    February 5, 2024 at 21:15

    This is a stark reminder of the utter lack of regard for justice and human rights that our Western politicians and governments have for the people. The treatment of Julian Assange is despicable on all levels. It flies in the face of all the false claims and ‘values’ that the US and UK purport to have.

    But those values have been proven false over and over again. They are utterly worthless, and make a mockery of the so-called democratic ‘free world’ that we are supposed to live in (contrasted, of course, against the horrible ‘evil’ countries that aren’t subservient to the West).

    When we see the much vaunted British justice system being subverted so blatantly, then any residual trust in the system of government and justice disappears.

    It is clear that they expected and hoped that Julian would die in prison, thus saving them from the awkward problem of having to destroy their (US) First amendment rights of freedom of expression and speech, something that is worrying so many journalists around the world.

    Now they have to decide whether they want to deal with the likely very public backlash if they go ahead and extradite him. Even the complicit mainstream media outlets and journalists will be concerned since they publish leaked and confidential information all the time.

    If he is extradited, and if he dies while still in captivity then there will be a huge outcry in Australia and backlash against the weak government that has done little to secure his release. It will be a tragedy, and it will also signal one of the last ‘nails in the coffin’ of freedom.

  4. Tony Kevin
    February 5, 2024 at 19:26

    Wonderful thorough and compassionate journalism by Australian Mary Kostakidis . How horrible a story she tells .

  5. John Zeigler
    February 5, 2024 at 17:26

    As noted by another contributor, if we think the U.S. in concert with the U.K. and Israel, that thinks nothing of murdering 26,000 plus Palestinians would think for even a second about one Australian journalist who outed its bloody military shenanigans, we are sadly and naively mistaken.

  6. Woody
    February 5, 2024 at 15:58

    Bi-partisanship. The Clintons, the Bushes, the Obamas, the Trumps and the Bidens all agree …. they hate Julian.

  7. Woody Deportees
    February 5, 2024 at 15:00

    Meanwhile, the ‘liberal’ Biden’s proposed policy on overall policy includes ….

    – $3 Billion to ICE for “increased detention capacity”. This a part of a $15 Billion ’emergency’ package for Donald Trump’s favorite federal agencies, ICE and Border Patrol. In comparison to that giant $15 Billion giveaway, the funding for lawyers for asylum seekers, including for children under 14, is a whopping $340 Million. A quick press of calculator buttons says that’s a ratio of 44,117:1 for Cops versus Lawyers. This will be called a ‘fair system.’
    – the rights of asylum, supposedly protected by international law (but apparently not by the rules-based-order) are restricted, with tighter limits, and apparently a system that is going to reduce the load by getting the seekers to ‘voluntarily close their cases’.
    – The right to asylum would almost completely go away when the DHS and ICE declare a ‘border shutdown’ because of workload. Notice that this is delegated away from the elected leader, into the hands of the cops.
    – the ration of funding for ‘local support’ for governments dealing with an influx of migrants is at a cops:help ratio of 10.7:1. Joe Biden loves funding his police. That’s almost as good to him as bombing another nation.
    – Now we get Biden’s Big Border Wall of Freedom. Can’t have any domestic funding for Americans, but we get Biden’s Big Border Wall of Freedom.
    – a continued flooding of workplaces with H-1B visas that allow Biden’s Tech Friends to avoid giving Americans good paying jobs.
    – BS about Fentanyl. Its BS for rhetoric only, funded by a bare $1 million. But they got to have a BS and Hate Section of at least two minutes in length, its tradition in Oceania.
    – little or no citizen-paths for ‘dreamers’ or farm-workers or the like. That will teach them George Carlin’s Truth about the American Dream ….”you have to be asleep to believe in it”.

    There is of course no money include for improving conditions south of the border, in hopes of perhaps making people less likely to have to flee for their lives. In response to Venezuelan immigrants arriving at the border, Biden has recently imposed new sanctions on Venezuela, for the crime of not including the candidates that Washington insists must be on the ballot in the name of democracy and not interfering in other people’s elections.

    This is what Biden thinks about immigration. Donald Trump was a @%&%$% liberal wimp according to the Big Guy. Meanwhile, in the case of Julian Assange, Biden is trying to force a foreigner to come to America against his will, again in the name of Freedom.

    Lower immigration … don’t extradite Assange.

  8. Sanford Kelson
    February 5, 2024 at 14:27

    Befitting treatment of a prisoner by a nation that engages in genocide.

  9. Carolyn/Cookie out west
    February 5, 2024 at 13:54

    So very sad about Julian Assange. I have a photo of him that I touch each evening in prayer for his release. Where are the so-called progressives or even middle of the road Democratics in pressuring Biden to help Assange. Hypocritical. Turned their back on Assange. Oh, if it were Trump as president, we might hear via MSM how terrible he is to not help Assange. If only a progressive U.K. government were elected….? then at least some chance of help for Julian.

  10. Bushrod Lake
    February 5, 2024 at 10:58

    No vote for Biden unless Assange is pardoned (and thanked!).

  11. Steve
    February 5, 2024 at 08:25

    The UK is completely under the control of the USA, a vassal state and the Government and Judiciary will follow Washington’s orders. This is a complete stain on the integrity of the UK and a lasting embarrassment for everyone in the country. And, where is Australia in all of this ? They appear more than happy for the USA to treat their citizens in this way. At some point Western governments are going to have to recognise that the USA is not their friend and considers the rest of the planet as second rate subservients.
    May the forces of good protect and help Julian Assange.

    • Jack Lomax
      February 5, 2024 at 19:28

      I concur may the forces of good help Julian Assange.
      But both the UK and the US are under the control of the powerful Zionists. Note that Biden has proudly said that he is a Zionist. As also indirectly is Europe and Australia since they lost their autonomy when forced into the unofficial American empire . Australia is now forced to act as an outpost of that vile empire with masses of American armaments and military personnel pouring into our northern desert country as potential attack elements on China

  12. JonT
    February 4, 2024 at 16:00

    Great piece by Ms. Kostakidis.

    Julian Assange has been lynched. Pure and simple. Not by the ‘mob’ but by the establishment.

    As a UK citizen and growing up in the UK I always thought that by and large we have a fair and decent legal system. Most of the time I think we do. Until it is political. The unfairness and abuses of Julians trials and appeals are so blatent, that I can only describe the whole process as a judicial lynching.

    It looks as if we are going to have an election here soon. Who will I vote for? Probably no one given that none of the political parties have exactly been shouting from the rooftops about this, considering how many lawyers and ‘democrats ‘ are among our MP’s. This is such an important issue; I still remain perplexed by the apparent total lack of interest by the establishment and the mainstream media about this case. Thanks as always to Consortium News. FREE JULIAN ASSANGE

    • Woody Deportees
      February 5, 2024 at 15:09

      The Democratic Party Social Media Mob has had a hand in it. Willing to jump in and pile on with their Me-Too stuff because the original charges way, way, way back when involved 2 women (who of course could never lie and therefore must be believed) making claims about dates with Assange.

      Social Media is very good at “Mob Mentality”. Now one can assemble a lynch mob at the speed of light, and this has been used as a part of the process of the legal lynching of Assange. With the old Mob Mentality of “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”. Thank you Democrats!

      • Steve
        February 6, 2024 at 10:30

        And of course, as I remember, the two women never wanted Assange jailed they just wanted STD tests to be carried out by the authorites following consensual sexual activity – covered under Swedish law. The women were heavily pressurised by TPTB, mainly the UK and CIA. And, although Assange fully cooperated with the Swedish authorities again TPTB, mainly the UK and CIA, stepped in to escalate the case, which was later totally dropped, so that a case could be built in the UK to extradite Assange.

    • Woody
      February 5, 2024 at 15:42

      PS … I’m sorry, but the closing thought is rather bizarre in its construction. “…remain perplexed by the apparent total lack of interest by the establishment and the mainstream media about this case.”

      First, why do you think the Establishment and the Mainstream Media are separate? Do you think the small handful of corporations who control what we see, read and hear are somehow different from ‘the Establishment?’

      Second, given the way that the Establishment-Media Industrial Complex has hated and gone after Assange ever since he released the “Collateral Murder” video and other Iraq “secrets” (like the documented deaths of more human beings than we had admitted), it is rather hard to see how their continued assault upon Assange and his life is in any “perplexing”. This is like being perplexed by a Mob Hit after everyone has known there’s a contract out and there are out-of-town assassins with rooms in the hotel.

      Everyone should always go watch the Collateral Murder video when Assange is mentioned. It should not be forgotten, and it is symbolic as to what this is all about. And, somebody in Google might notice the spike and tell their employee in the White House to back off. It can’t be more useless than writing a letter, and it is educational and almost revolutionary to “remember” in a world that sends everything down the Memory Hole. Like an illegal war and the ‘extra deaths’ of a million or more people, all with the votes and approval of ‘Liberals” like Hillary and Genocide Joe. With more deaths every time this same Establishment-Media-Complex says that Genocide Joe has once again bombed Iraq and killed yet more human beings.

      In this age of Freedom, Google asks “papers please” before you can see the video, as the truth is ‘age-restricted.’ They must know who you are before you can see the video on their platform, and put you on their list, in the name of Freedom of course. Fortunately, its not the only platform, but only the reason I don’t include a link to the video on youtube at this point.

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