Mary Kostakidis

Julian Assange would be extradited from Sweden to the US - Part 1

10 April, 2013 16:04  

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During the unprecedented speech in Australia by Swedish Justice Lindskog, who commented in a public forum on the as yet to be charged or tried “case” of Julian Assange, part of the live feed was cut but fortunately, as has happened more and more often with modern technology, an anonymous person in the audience was able to record the session on a device. Human Rights champion Mary Kostakidis spoke with John Robles about the part of Lindskog’s speech that they would rather you do not know about.

Robles: I’d like to ask you a few things about Justice Lindskog’s speech; this is the Swedish Justice who appeared in Australia last week... You have some new information on that, don’t you?

Kostakidis: Yes. The speech itself was quite a curious speech for a judge. He had been invited to speak about freedom of expression but spent most of his talk focusing on one side of a case that hasn’t been resolved yet. So, that’s unheard of in Australian and I think in most of the Western world for a judge to be speculating and talking about the two women’s statements in this case, naming them on a first name basis. Sofia and Anna said this and did that, he did this, he said that, she said that, it was quite extraordinary.

What was more interesting though, was the response of the panelists to Justice Lindskog’s speech, which was not covered in the live stream, nor was the Q&A from the audience. And fortunately, it was recorded and there is an audio recording on the Internet of the Q&A session.

And during that session Justice Lindskog was asked whether, despite his assertion that Sweden does not extradite on political or military grounds, whether Julian Assange could be extradited from Sweden to the US. And he admitted that yes, it was quite possible.

Robles: He said that, he said it was quite possible?

Kostakidis: Yes, it was quite possible. He was reminded that Sweden has extradited people extra-judicially. Two Egyptians were sent to Egypt, handed over to the CIA and tortured in Egypt, and that states do act extra-judicially, and Sweden in particular has acted extra-judicially. And he admitted that it was possible that Assange could be handed over to the US by Sweden.

Secondly, he said that he didn’t know why Julian Assange had not been interviewed by the Swedish prosecutors in London. He seemed to be at a loss to understand that himself, which is very-very interesting and perhaps leads us to speculate whether this switch in the prosecutor, installing a new prosecutor, may be an opportunity for Sweden to adopt a different strategy with respect to Julian Assange.

Robles: What do you think about their case, the Swedish case? Do you think it is falling apart and they are grasping for straws? Or do you think they are regrouping and they are going to come up with something even worse?

Kostakidis: Well, we have to wait and see. But it is quite a significant step for one of the women to sack her lawyer. And it is quite a significant step to remove the prosecutor from the case. So, we will just have to wait and see why they have done that and whether that’s going to change the nature of the case.

Reminder

Robles: As I understood it, they actually replaced a very experienced prosecutor with someone who has very little experience leading me to believe they need someone in there to manipulate easier. What do you think about that?

Kostakidis: I really don’t think we can come to any conclusion until we see what exactly they are going to do. We just have to wait and see. But there is an impasse here and a breakthrough needs to be created. And I’m hopeful that these changes are going to auger well for a resolution to this whole issue.

The important issue that Julian Burnside raised in his response to Justice Lindskog, and Julian represents Julian Assange in Australia, was that Sweden has this temporary surrender agreement with the US, which means that if Julian were in Sweden and he would be in jail, he would be held without bail, the US could borrow him for another trial, and Sweden would hand him over. And again, when Justice Lindskog was asked about this, he refused to comment about it. So, it was very interesting that he has been very careful about this issue.

Robles: I see ….

Kostakidis: So I think the Swedes are very conscious that the whole exercise has been a very negative public relations exercise for Sweden. And indeed, we all know a lot more about Sweden as a result. For example, you and I may be in Stockholm, though I perhaps have never met you, I could walk into a police station with a couple of mates and allege all sorts of things about you. You would be picked up and put in jail, and you would remain there without bail until a prosecutor decided whether there was a valid case to answer. You could be in jail for several months.

Now there are people in Sweden who think that this law is inconsistent with human rights, whereas the impression I suppose, that most people have of Sweden, and I’m not sure what brought about this impression, that it is in fact a very liberal society. But we know that in fact, what happens in Sweden, is that they have encroached more and more on the human rights of citizens.

Robles: When you said he said this was quite possible, was that part of the live feed that was cut off? Are you aware of that?

Kostakidis: That’s right.

Robles: This would go completely against all the media reports that were coming out right after, especially in the mass media, right after the event occurred. Do you think that media was being manipulated or was being fed incorrect information?

Kostakidis: I think it was an attempt at a public relations exercise. However, interestingly one part of the mainstream media in Australia, in fact the newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch, picked up on exactly that response, to that question. And the headline in fact was “Assange could be extradited”.

Robles: What else can you tell us about that Q&A part?

Kostakidis: Well, I think it is worth listening to the questions and answers because Lindskog clearly wasn’t prepared to be challenged in this way. And he was unable to provide answers to simple questions, like; “Why won’t the prosecutor go to London?”

Sweden and Australia are trying to save face - Part 2

11 April, 19:23  

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The recent talk in Australia by Swedish Supreme Court Justice Stefan Lindskog was a carefully planned public relations move by the Swedish and Australian governments, who need to try to save face after the egregious treatment of Australian citizen Julian Assange at their hands. Unfortunately for Sweden and Australia, Justice Lindskog’s appearance and his public comments on a case that has not even been charged, let alone appeared before a court, have backfired and brought to the public’s attention once again the subservient relationship between the countries in question to the United States, the policies of extra-judicial incarceration and rendition and other black practices that the West would rather the world knew nothing about.

You are listening to an interview with Mary Kostakidis. This is an interview in progress.

Robles: This brings back into focus something that most people have either forgotten about or it’s been kind of forgotten in the media, I’m talking about Sweden’s rendition that you just mentioned, their extra-judicial incarceration of suspects, what you just mentioned, that they can just pick people up in the street on hearsay. It seems to me that Justice Lindskog has now brought to the forefront some pretty bad points on Sweden. Anything else you can add to that salad?

Kostakidis: That’s right. The point he made was that he believed that in Julian’s case, that case would come before the Supreme Court. But really it is not up to him to determine that. That’s a matter for the Government and they decide whether they handover someone extra-judicially, they decide whether they handover someone on this temporary surrender agreement.

So, he can only speak about a matter that may come before him. But in fact, this is extraordinary for a judge to be speaking about a matter that may come before him because it is prejudicial, so it’s quite a curious thing to do.

Robles: In any normal country you would believe that that would be grounds to have the entire matter thrown out, I can’t say “case” or “thrown out of court”, because it’s never been in court. But do you think that there will be push in Sweden… I think there should be a legitimate push, to have their whole case just mothballed forever, after this?

Kostakidis: I think clearly in Sweden, what the judge has done is quite acceptable, they talk about cases, matters, before they are heard, even though to the rest of the Western world that’s quite extraordinary.

Going back to the key changes, and that is, the changing of the prosecutor and the fact that one of the women has sacked her lawyer, these I think, they are signals that there will be a change in strategy which will be very interesting indeed.

Robles: They’ve already put so much out there, I mean what do you think they are going to change?

Kostakidis: Well, they could drop the case, couldn’t they?

Robles: I think that would be the prudent thing to do at this point.

Kostakidis: It’s hard to say because it is a matter of saving face as well. And that’s where unfortunately the Australian Government had a diplomatic role to play because in this situation someone has to step in and provide a way of a matter being likely resolved, so that the parties can save faces.

So, it is interesting to see that in fact the move has come from within Sweden to change the circumstances. So I hope that that’s going to lead to a resolution of the entire matter, so that Julian could leave the Ecuadorian Embassy and come home or indeed be a free person to go wherever he likes.

Robles: A lot of questions just came up again. I think, to give your opinion about other directions that the Swedish case could go, besides abandoning their case, do you think they might try something else?

Kostakidis: Well, they could continue to try and prosecute it. But really, the missing link here is the statement from Julian. We haven’t heard his side of the story. There is no document yet that can be leaked or not, and this is another point that the judge made, that this statement by the two women was.

And in fact possibly I think, his response to that had the opposite effect to what he intended. There is no such statement there is nothing that they’ve written down following a discussion with Julian. And that needs to occur.

Robles: Now, we are clear: Sweden does have mechanisms that, if they want to, they could extradite Julian if he were there to the United States. That’s a given, right?

Kostakidis: Yes, I believe so. I think Justice Lindskog has admitted that.

Robles: I’m thinking: ok, Sweden throws the case out the window, where it should have gone a long time ago, will he have problems, or could he have problems with the UK authorities then, if he actually leaves the embassy? Could they cook something up or something to incarcerate him there? There was the fact that…

Kostakidis: Well, I hope not. I hope that’s going to be an end to that sorry saga. I assume, if Sweden would drop the matter, then Julian would be a free man. But we will just have to wait and see.

Robles: I understand that there in the UK they don’t publicize, there is no news about Julian, even though the whole world is watching. Have you been to the UK recently? What’s the opinion in the U.K about Julian Assange?

Kostakidis: No, that’s right there isn’t a lot of coverage about Julian’s plight, but there certainly is in Australia, there is a lot of interest in what is happening to an Australian citizen. And there is also now interest in the fact that this Australian citizen is going to be running for a seat in the Australian Senate in September. So, yes, there is certainly interest here.

Robles: What do you think Julian’s chances are of winning a Senate seat?

Kostakidis: I think he certainly has a good chance because he has about 25-27% support among the Australian public. And he and his party represent the very things that are missing from Australian politics.

There is a great disillusionment with the two major parties and the two leaders of those parties. And Australians are more and more interested in independent voices. We can see that through their support of independent voices, Andrew Wilkie who is a former whistleblower, in fact the only Iraq war whistleblower, he was elected on a platform of two issues that he wished to achieve reform in: whistleblowing legislation (protection of whistleblowers) and gambling reform.

So, Australians are very much interested in people who want to shift the needle on an issue or a set of issues. And with the WikiLeaks party of course the one issue, transparency and accountability, cuts across all issues because it is at the core of what politicians have to offer to the public, what they don’t have to offer to the public. In Australia at the moment there is very little faith in their integrity because they’re seen to be obliged to the interests that have helped them to achieve their position. And all they are interested in is hanging onto power.

So, I think WikiLeaks is going to have support, and support that the major parties are going to be very surprised at. Julian is a person who is passionate about justice and human rights, and a citizens’ right to know and he has resilience and he is resourceful and he has perseverance and he is courageous. And he attracts people around him who have similar attributes and are similarly motivated.

I was in London recently and spent some time with him, and for someone in his position he is in extraordinary good spirits. And I think it is because he is sustained by his work and he has gathered around him a team of people who are highly intelligent, highly articulate and very courageous.

Robles: That’s wonderful! Can you give us any more details about Julian himself?

Kostakidis: Well, I think he is very keen to have this matter resolved, I mean the Swedish matter because it really is a distraction from the main threat which is the US. And they’ve made it very clear that they want to shut down WikiLeaks, and they want to put Julian away forever. And the US Justice Department has reaffirmed its ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks. So, that is the major problem. Turning it into this Swedish problem is a distraction and that needs to be resolved.

Robles: Yes, I mean they are attacking the messenger because they don’t want the message to get out and they don’t want people to pay attention to the message, pretty simple, classic attack policy.

Did Julian have anything special that you might want to add as a response to this Swedish Justice, maybe something we haven’t heard? Did you speak to him after that event?

Kostakidis: No, I haven’t spoken to him after that event. But Julian is more aware of what is going to happen than just about anyone else, I think.

Robles: Does he have any ideas? Any predictions from Julian?

Kostakidis: No, I would leave that to Julian. If he wished to make any predictions, I’m sure he would

Letter to Ecuadorian President 

2 July 2012, 16:28

Mary Kostakidis is a 20 year international TV news anchor, a freelance journalist, has conducted a study on the protection of human rights for the Australian government and has written a letter in support of Julian Assange to the Ecuadorian president.

Hello, this is John Robles. I am speaking with Mary Kostakidis, she was a former anchor for SBS World News in Australia. She conducted an inquiry into the protection of human rights and the promotion of human rights in Australia for the Australian government. She is also a freelance journalist.

Greeting

Robles: I understand you wrote a letter to the Ecuadorian Government about the Julian Assange case.

Kostakidis: Yes, well, I wrote a letter urging them to give Julian Assange asylum because the Australian government is abrogating its responsibility and refusing to guarantee the safety of one of its own citizens. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen is double standards being applied when it comes to the government assisting Australian citizens overseas in need of help. The Australian prime minister picked up the phone and talked to her counterpart in Indonesia to intervene in the case of a youth in trouble there, and our foreign minister has just been to Libya to try and secure the release of an Australian citizen, a woman in trouble there. When it comes to Julian Assange, when it comes to people the government doesn’t like, or disapproves of what they have been doing, then they feel no compulsion to assist them in any way.

Robles: I see. What is the current status of the request?

Kostakidis: Well, the Ecuadorians have been extremely supportive and humane. They are examining the situation and at least Julian is safe within the confines of the Embassy. It is my understanding no decision has been made but the Ecuadorian government would be under enormous pressure because as we know they receive exemptions from the United States to import goods to the value of about a third of their economy, around 10 billion dollars and supporting some 400,000 jobs in a country of around 14 million people. Now those preferences, when they come up for renewal by congress early next year, are in question. So, there is a lot on president Correa’s plate at the moment, but these people who support free speech and are opposed to the tight control of the internet that governments are trying to rest. We’ll be looking to Ecuador’s decision, so really this country is under the international spotlight.

Reminder

Robles: Can you tell us anything about the current status of the request?

Kostakidis: They are still negotiating all of this and as you can imagine, there are steps that need to be taken in the diplomatic process to try to work out exactly what they can do and what they are prepared to do.

Robles: I see. Have you talked to Julian recently since he asked for asylum?

Kostakidis: No, I haven’t spoken to him since he has been in the embassy. But of course I have e-mail contacts with the people who are close to him there.

Robles: How is he?

Kostakidis: Well, as his mother Christine told me yesterday he feels safe and is surrounded by people that aren’t threatening him in any way and providing for his basic needs, so he is in a better position that he would be if he were not in this embassy. I was told that the people he's surrounded by are warm and human and natural, you know, responding to him in a natural way.

Robles: Yeah, I talked to Christine too, she told me the same thing. Are you aware of any statements by the Australian government or the UK government as to whether they will try to intercept Julian if he is physically moved out of the embassy and tries to go to Ecuador? Have you heard anything about that?

Kostakidis: Not by the Australian government but certainly the UK government or UK authorities have made it clear that they will arrest him at the moment he emerges from the Embassy even if he is in a diplomatic vehicle. The Australian government has made some curious statements about Assange and Wikileaks, that said that their activities are illegal and the latest thing that the foreign minister has said is that he is amoral and really it’s a statement that many Australian citizens would not agree with. Revealing the truth is never amoral.

Robles: Illegal in what regard, in what country? Where was something illegal done?

Kostakidis: You'd need to ask the prime minister that. Close on the heels of making that statement the Australian police and other authorities had to in fact contradict her and say that he had broken the law in no country. But as we know there is a grand jury examining this issue and gathering evidence, and this is, of course, this is Assange’s greatest fear that he will end up being extradited to the US. And his lawyers have received a letter from Australian attorney general saying should there be moves to extradite him from Sweden to the US or indeed from the UK to the US, that the Australian government would certainly not intervene in that process, and this is one of the key demands by Assange, his lawyers and the people who support him; that the Australian government intervene. They haven’t intervened in any way even to the extent of not retracting the prejudicial statements that his activities are illegal, they haven’t demanded that Sweden question him in London, they haven’t demanded that Sweden and the US not extradite him once to the United States. They haven’t demanded that the US stop this investigation into the work of a publisher and a journalist. You have to remember that Assange ironically in Australia has received one of the highest awards for his journalism for outstanding contribution to journalism.

Robles: Ok, thank you very much, Mary, for agreeing to speak with me.

That was an interview with Mary Kostakidis, she was a former anchor for SBS World News in Australia. She conducted an inquiry to the protection of human rights and the promotion of human Rights for the Australian government.

 

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