Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 15 147

When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, the US Government burgled the office of his psychiatrist to look for medical evidence to discredit him. Julian Assange has been obliged to submit himself, while in a mentally and physically weakened state and in conditions of the harshest incarceration, to examination by psychiatrists appointed by the US government. He has found the experience intrusive and traumatising. It is a burglary of the mind.

Julian is profoundly worried that his medical history will be used to discredit him and all that he has worked for, to paint the achievements of Wikileaks in promoting open government and citizen knowledge as the fantasy of a deranged mind. I have no doubt this will be tried, but fortunately there has been a real change in public understanding and acknowledgement of mental illness. I do not think Julian’s periodic and infrequent episodes of very serious depression will be successfully portrayed in a bad light, despite the incredibly crass and insensitive attitude displayed today in court by the US Government, who have apparently been bypassed by the change in attitudes of the last few decades.

I discuss this before coming to Tuesday’s evidence because for once my account will be less detailed than others, because I have decided to censor much of what was said. I do this on the grounds that, when it comes to his medical history, Julian’s right to privacy ought not to be abolished by these proceedings. I have discussed this in some detail with Stella Morris. I have of course weighed this against my duty as a journalist to you the reader, and have decided the right to medical privacy is greater, irrespective of what others are publishing. I have therefore given as full an account as I can while omitting all mention of behaviours, of symptoms, and of more personal detail.

I also believe I would take that view irrespective of the identity of the defendant. I am not just being partial to a friend. In all my reporting of these proceedings, of course my friendship with Julian has been something of which I am mindful. But I have invented nothing, nor have I omitted anything maliciously.

I will state firmly and resolutely that my account has been truthful. I do not claim it has been impartial. Because in a case of extreme injustice, truth is not impartial.

The following account tries to give you a fair impression of today’s courtroom events, while omitting the substance and detail of much of the discussion. The single witness all day was the eminent psychiatrist Prof Michael Kopelman, who will be familiar to readers of Murder in Samarkand. Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London and formerly head of psychiatry at Guy’s and St Thomas’s, Prof Kopelman was appointed by the defence (he is not one of the psychiatrists of whom Julian complains, who will give evidence later) and had visited Julian Assange 19 times in Belmarsh Prison. His detailed report concluded that

“I reiterate again that I am as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr. Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide,”

Kopelman’s evidence was that his report was based not just on his many consultations with Assange, but on detailed research of his medical records back to childhood, including direct contact with other doctors who had treated Assange including in Australia, and multiple interviews with family and long-term friends. His diagnosis of severe depression was backed by a medical history of such episodes and a startling family history of suicide, possibly indicating genetic disposition.

Prof Kopelman was firm in stating that he did not find Assange to be delusional. Assange’s concerns with being spied upon and plotted against were perfectly rational in the circumstances.

Kopelman had no doubt that Julian was liable to commit suicide if extradited. “It is the disorder which brings the suicide risk. Extradition is the trigger.”

James Lewis QC cross-examined Professor Kopelman for four hours. As ever, he started by disparaging the witness’s qualifications; Prof Kopelman was a cognitive psychiatrist not a forensic psychiatrist and had not worked in prisons. Prof Kopelman pointed out that he had been practising forensic psychiatry and testifying in numerous courts for over thirty years. When Lewis persisted again and again in querying his credentials, Kopelman had enough and decided to burst out of the bubble of court etiquette:

“I have been doing this for over thirty years and on five or six occasions London solicitors have phoned me up and said that James Lewis QC is acting in an extradition case and is extremely keen to get your services for a report. So I think it is a bit rich for you to stand there now questioning my qualifications.” This caused really loud laughter in court, which remarkably the judge made no attempt to silence.

The other trick which the prosecution played yet again was to give Prof Kopelman two huge bundles which had, they said, been sent to him that morning and which he said he had never seen – unsurprisingly as he started testifying at 10am. These included substantial items which Prof Kopelman had never seen before but on which he was to be questioned. The first of these was an academic article on malingering which Kopelman was in effect scorned by Lewis for not having read. He said he had read a great many articles on the subject but not this particular one.

Lewis then read several sentences from the article and invited Kopelman to agree with them. These included “clinical skills alone are not sufficient to diagnose malingering” and one to the effect that the clinical team are best placed to detect malingering. Prof Kopelman refused to sign up to either of these propositions without qualification, and several times over the four hours was obliged to refute claims by Lewis that he had done so.

This is another technique continually deployed by the prosecution, seizing upon a single article and trying to give it the status of holy writ, when JStor would doubtless bring out hundreds of contending articles. On the basis of this one article, Lewis was continually to assert and/or insinuate that it was only the prison medical staff who were in a position to judge Assange’s condition. Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defence was later to assert that the article, when it referred to “the clinical team”, was talking of psychiatric hospitals and not prisons. Kopelman declined to comment on the grounds he had not read the article.

Lewis now did another of his standard tricks; attempting to impugn Kopelman’s expertise by insisting he state, without looking it up, what the eight possible diagnostic symptoms of a certain WHO classification of severe depression were. Kopelman simply refused to do this. He said he made a clinical diagnosis of the patient’s condition and only then did he calibrate it against the WHO guidelines for court purposes; and pointed out that he was on some of the WHO committees that wrote these definitions. They were, he said, very political and some of their decisions were strange.

We then entered a very lengthy and detailed process of Lewis going through hundreds of pages of Assange’s prison medical notes and pointing out phrases omitted from Kopelman’s sixteen page synopsis which tended to the view Assange’s mental health was good, while the Professor countered repeatedly that he had included that opinion in shortened form, or that he had also omitted other material that said the opposite. Lewis claimed the synopsis was partial and biased and Kopelman said it was not.

Lewis also pointed out that some of Assange’s medical history from Australia lacked the original medical notes. Kopelman said that this was from the destruction policy of the state of Victoria. Lewis was only prepared to accept history backed by the original medical notes; Kopelman explained these notes themselves referred to earlier episodes, he had consulted Professor Mullen who had treated Julian, and while Lewis may wish to discount accounts of family and friends, to a medical professional that was standard Maudsley method for approaching mental illness history; there was furthermore an account in a book published in 1997.

After lunch Lewis asked Prof Kopelman why his first report had quoted Stella Morris but not mentioned that she was Julian’s partner. Why was he concealing this knowledge from the court? Kopelman replied that Stella and Julian had been very anxious for privacy in the circumstances because of stress on her and the children. Lewis said that Kopelman’s first duty was to the court and this overrode their right to privacy. Kopelman said he had made his decision. His second report mentioned it once it had become public. Lewis asked why he had not explicitly stated they had two children. Kopelman said he thought it best to leave the children out of it.

Lewis asked whether he was hiding this information because having a partner was a safeguard against suicide. Kopelman said that some studies showed suicide was more common in married people. Besides, what we were considering here was stress of separation from partner and children.

Lewis then addressed the reference in Prof Kopelman’s report to the work of Prof Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. Without specifying Professor Melzer’s background or position or even making any mention of the United Nations at all, Lewis read out seven paragraphs of Prof Melzer’s letter to Jeremy Hunt, then UK foreign secretary. These paragraphs addressed the circumstances of Assange’s incarceration in the Embassy and of his continual persecution, including the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Lewis even managed to leave the words “United Nations” out of the name of the working group.

As he read each paragraph, Lewis characterised it as “nonsense”, “rubbish” or “absurd”, and invited Prof Kopelman to comment. Each time Prof Kopelman gave the same reply, that he had only used the work of the psychologist who had accompanied Prof Melzer and had no comment to make on the political parts, which had not appeared in his report. Baraitser – who is always so keen to rule out defence evidence as irrelevant and to save time – allowed this reading of irrelevant paragraphs to go on and on and on. The only purpose was to enter Prof Melzer’s work into the record with an unchallenged dismissive characterisation, and it was simply irrelevant to the witness in the stand. This was Baraitser’s double standard at play yet again.

Lewis then put to Prof Kopelman brief extracts of court transcript showing Julian interacting with the court, as evidence that he had no severe cognitive difficulty. Kopelman replied that a few brief exchanges really told nothing of significance, while his calling out from the dock when not allowed to might be seen as symptomatic of Asperger’s, on which other psychiatrists would testify.

Lewis again berated Kopelman for not having paid sufficient attention to malingering. Kopelman replied that not only had he used his experience and clinical judgement, but two normative tests had been applied, one of them the TOMM test. Lewis suggested those tests were not for malingering and only the Minnesota test was the standard. At this point Kopelman appeared properly annoyed. He said the Minnesota test was very little used outside the USA. The TOMM test was indeed for malingering. That was why it was called the Test of Memory Malingering. Again there was some laughter in court.

Lewis then suggested that Assange may only get a light sentence in the USA of as little as six years, and might not be held in solitary confinement. Would that change Kopelman’s prognosis? Kopelman said it would if realistic, but he had done too many extradition cases, and seen too many undertakings broken, to put much store by this. Besides, he understood no undertakings had been given.

Lewis queried Kopelman’s expertise on prison conditions in the USA and said Kopelman was biased because he had not taken into account the evidence of Kromberg and of another US witness on the subject who is to come. Kopelman replied that he had not been sent their evidence until substantially after he completed his reports. But he had read it now, and he had seen a great deal of other evidence that contradicted it, both in this case and others. Lewis suggested it was not for him to usurp the judgement of the court on this issue, and he should amend his opinion to reflect the effect of the US prison system on Assange if it were as Kromberg described it. Kopelman declined to do so, saying he doubted Kromberg’s expertise and preferred to rely on among others the Department of Justice’s own report of 2017, the Centre for Constitutional Rights report of 2017 and the Marshall report of 2018.

Lewis pressed Kopelman again, and asked that if prison conditions and healthcare in the USA were good, and if the sentence were short, would that cause an alteration to his clinical opinion. Kopelman replied that if those factors were true, then his opinion would change, but he doubted they were true.

Suddenly, Baraitser repeated out loud the part quote that if prison conditions in the US were good and the sentence were short, then Kopelman’s clinical opinion would change, and ostentatiously typed it onto her laptop, as though it were very significant indeed.

This was very ominous. As she inhabits a peculiar world where it is not proven that anybody was ever tortured in Guantanamo Bay, I understand that in Baraitser’s internal universe prison conditions in the Colorado ADX are perfectly humane and medical care is jolly good. I could note Baraitser seeing her way suddenly clear to how to cope with Professor Kopelman in her judgement. I could not help but consider Julian was the last person in this court who needed a psychiatrist.

Lewis now asked, in his best rhetorical and sarcastic style, whether mental illness had prevented Julian Assange from obtaining and publishing hundreds of thousands of classified documents that were the property of the United States? He asked how, if he suffered from severe depression, Julian Assange had been able to lead Wikileaks, to write books, make speeches and host a TV programme?

I confess that at this stage I became very angry indeed. Lewis’s failure to acknowledge the episodic nature of severe depressive illness, even after the Professor had explained it numerous times, was intellectually pathetic. It is also crass, insensitive and an old-fashioned view to suggest that having a severe depressive illness could stop you from writing a book or leading an organisation. It was plain stigmatising of those with mental health conditions. I confess I took this personally. As long-term readers know, I have struggled with depressive illness my entire life and have never hidden the fact that I have in the past been hospitalised for it, and on suicide watch. Yet I topped the civil service exams, became Britain’s youngest Ambassador, chaired a number of companies, have been Rector of a university, have written several books, and give speeches at the drop of a hat. Lewis’s characterisation of depressives as permanently incapable is not just crassly insensitive, it is a form of hate speech and should not be acceptable in court.

(I am a supporter of free speech, and if Lewis wants to make a fool of himself by exhibiting ignorance of mental illness in public I have no problem. But in court, no.)

Furthermore, Lewis was not representing his own views but speaking on the direct instructions of the government of the United States of America. Throughout a full four hours, Lewis on behalf of the government of the USA not only evinced no understanding whatsoever of mental illness, he never once, not for one second, showed one single sign that mental illness is a subject taken seriously or for which there is the tiniest element of human sympathy and concern. Not just for Julian, but for any sufferer. Mental illness is malingering or if real disqualifies you from any role in society; no other view was expressed. He made plain on behalf of the US Government, for example, that Julian’s past history of mental illness in Australia will not be taken into account because the medical records have been destroyed.

The only possible conclusion from yesterday’s testimony is that the performance of the representative of the United States Government was, in and of itself, full and sufficient evidence that there is no possibility that Julian Assange will receive fair consideration and treatment of his mental health issues within the United States system. The US government has just demonstrated that to us, in open court, to perfection.

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147 thoughts on “Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 15

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  • Mary

    James Lewis QC comes from the chambers, Three Raymond Buildings, headed by David Cameron’s brother Alexander.

    Alexander Cameron leads another barrister appearing in the case described below.

    ‘GPT appears in court on corruption charge
    Three individuals and GPT Special Project Management Ltd appeared at Westminster Magistrates‘ Court on Monday, 14th September, relating to a corruption charge arising out of contracts with the Saudi military.

    Hugo Keith QC represented GPT Special Project Management Ltd. Robert Morris represented one of the individuals.

    Helen Malcolm QC is instructed on behalf of the Serious Fraud Office. Alexander Cameron QC leads Robert Morris.’

    Business must be good at Three Raymond Buildings. NINE of their members are appearing at the Manchester Arena Inquiry.

    There are dozens of them listed on this link.

    • J

      The thumbnail gallery of The Firm is sinister viewing indeed. Uncanny valley? Half of them look disconcertingly like they were generated by algorithm. Looking at the individual biographies, lurid quotes from ‘trade’ publications accompany their ‘iconic’ likenesses which read like some breathless encounter between Mills & Boon and a Porsche dealership. These instruments of the state are presented as race horses for inspection by the client, with the astronomical sums involved in litigation paraded as battlefield medals. I have to admit, I’ve seldom seen anything quite so unsavoury.

  • Stevie Boy

    ” … there is no possibility that Julian Assange will receive fair consideration and treatment of his mental health issues within the United States system”, in fact the current torture protocols used by the USA, UK and friends are largely based upon destroying a person’s mental health.

    • Ian

      Indeed that is the point. US civil society has been militarised, thanks to the colossal funding of the military and their ongoing global wars. It has infiltrated the police, the law and the prison service. The consequence is that torture, as we saw practised in Iraq, has become normalised in those institutions, and the blurring of boundaries of what is acceptable or humane have collapsed. The civil war that Trump promotes just just heightens the sense that any deviation can be treated as an attack on the state and thus justifies a military grade response, in interrogation, confinement and punishment.

      • Ian

        Same as in Israel of course, where you can see how this is taken to an all-encompassing level and defines the state. The political establishment promotes a constant state of war, and will fabricate any amount of threats and enemies if necessary. This entails the population being manipulated by fear and division, you are us or them. And if you are them, military occupation is a normal way of enclosing you, and in turn enables military detention, military ‘trials’, military ‘interrogation’, torture, destruction of property without compensation, a colossal surveillance system etc. The whole panoply of totalitarianism, with the flimsy camouflage of ‘democracy’ for the people who will ensure the continuation of the occupation. And of course they extend this policy worldwide to anybody who might oppose them, well beyond any borders. This is the road Trump is travelling. And Assange is a pawn in this game, someone who briefly lifted the veil.

        • SA

          The Johnson regime is now proposing to use the military to control the population during the current COVID-19 crisis. I think the police should condemn this suggestion and so should we all. Post Brexit Britain may become as militarised as the US.

          • Xavi

            On the subject of the military, I see Bozo’s “opposition” have just given the nod for them to engage in torture. More than that, the human-rights lawyer Sir Keir has sacked a front-bencher for voting against legalising torture.

        • Gerald

          But it was a road started by Bush and continued by Obama and aided by the British. Biden will not change any of it either. Pax Americana is a bi partisan project, you will find zero real difference in US foreign policy between the parties (and even when there is it will be over ridden by the neocons who occupy the Whitehouse) or indeed the British response to the dog whistle when the Americans call the tune.

          • Ian

            It is exponentially worse now, with the gradual erosion of democratic norms, checks and balances, the corruption of the vote, the rise of demagogues and not least the toxic influence of big tech and social media. Saying it is no different from X years ago doesn’t go anywhere near what his happening now and the sea change of the last ten years. That is the point.

  • Baalbek

    Thank you for providing this valuable service. It is extremely disturbing that Julian Assange is being blatantly persecuted with extreme prejudice for the “crime” of doing journalism that exposes the war crimes of American empire while most citizens of the US, UK, Australia and other liberal democracies [sic] really couldn’t care less. Western democracies were always far from perfect, but governments generally did take the concept of civil liberties and rule of law somewhat seriously. And the media did step up from time to time and hold them to account when they shirked their obligations.

    This is no longer the case.

    After illegally bombing, invading and destroying numerous countries in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia the USA led west has gotten itself embroiled in a two front Cold War and, since 9/11, has been steadily replacing democracy with a national security obsessed pseudo-democratic surveillance state.

    The establishment media, meanwhile, has reinvented itself as an aggressive pro-empire propaganda organ and perception management operation. It openly lies, spins “narratives” out of whole cloth and engages in character assassination on behalf of its deep state and plutocratic masters. And western society itself has become so atomized and splintered that few people seem to notice, let alone care, that the last remnants of its democratic tradition is being destroyed, along with the life of a courageous and principled truth teller for whom democracy, freedom and government accountability mean more than vague notions to be taken for granted and quickly forgotten.

    I have nightmares about this. In less than 20 years western democracy has been all but destroyed and illegal war, torture and political persecution normalized. Thinking about what Julian is going through and the horror that awaits him if he’s extradited to the United States leaves me profoundly depressed. The media should be shouting about this from the rooftops and a million people should be crowding the streets in protest.

    There is a book written by present and former inmates incarcerated in American “super max” prisons, describing the conditions in these jails. It inspired this post and is called ‘Hell Is A Very Small Place: Voices From Solitary Confinement’. It is absolutely horrific stuff. Many prisoners go insane in those places. The USA does not deserve to be called a free country or a democracy. Its much fetishized constitution is just a piece of paper that offers very little protection to those whom the state wishes to harm and destroy. I encourage everyone who cares about Julian to read this book. It’s a very disturbing read but that is the point.

    How much longer are we going to let this arrogant and sadistic rogue state get away with subjecting the entire world to its psychopathic whims and perverted “justice” system? Fuck the USA. Enough is enough.

    The publisher’s website is at

    A free ePub copy can be downloaded from Library Genesis at
    (Be sure to support the authors by purchasing a copy if you find it useful.)

    • Mary

      That is an excellent analysis of our present condition. You refer to the ‘last 20 years’.
      I agree. Back to Blair and Bush and their wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • giyane


      How could one expect to retain old fashioned British values when we give asylum to and house the main supporters of illegal interventions in our capital city. The countries they come from have no welfare state and they have no particular love for the principle of it. At the same time the countries that do share our values have politicians that weirdly seem to want to create a Federal Europe.

      Political people understandably are interested in pleasing power. The origin of the problem lies in Mrs Thatcher 40 years ago deciding to wreck our manufacturing industry in order to destroy socialism.
      After having a complete breakdown after realising the full implications of what she wanted to achieve, all I have done since then is to watch the nightmare she wanted, unfold.

      That’s how we got here, by deciding that our principles, sound money, sound jobs, sound morality, were all too hard work. This covid plague has discovered all the weaknesses in our country that the brainless dame thought we could ignore. Sorry to sound like I told you so. But at the time I was constantly being told that I couldn’t possibly know that the proxy terrorism in Yugoslavia was a disaster, that the shutting down of industry was a catastrophe, and the destruction of the family was a cataclysm for the mental health of young and old alike.

      If you want someone to curse for the mess we are in, direct your ire at Mrs Thatcher.

      • Natasha

        I’d go further back than 1979 and Thatcher, to the economic doctrine she and Reagan ushered in: neoliberalism’s beginnings in the 1940s in reaction against fears that collectivism would weaken private exploitation of natural monopolies, and its false assumption / propaganda that all humans are always rational profit maximising agents, i.e. a we are all psychopath acting as the central actors in its theories, and that altruism and civil society beyond the individual does not exist.

    • nevermind

      Why are we not breaking diplomatic relations with a rogue, chaotic and self destructing US?
      This whole drive to allow torture, because you are actively involved in it, sounds like washing your bloody hands in asses milk.
      The torture of Khaled El Masri is not an isolated case and scores of soldiers suffering from PTSD are just a small proof of their hellish engagement orders.

      the emperor wears no cloth and its obvious that he’s starke naked, thing is, with all these people being fooled and lied to all the time; is he really an emperor?

    • pete

      You can also get a flavour of solitary confinement from the website: Just in case you do not believe that it might be hell on earth.
      Mr internet provider blocks my visit to Library Genisis at the reference quoted due to a legal injunction. Aparently it might be too exciting for me

  • Elisabeth Robyn

    Thank you, Mr Murray!
    I trust you! I know you report with intelligence, integrity and compassion!
    May all be well with JULIAN ASSANGE! He is a hero! So is the mother of his children! How much courage! Awesome!
    As you meet her/them, may my love and my heartfelt best wishes reach them with full force! ❤wishes
    May all be well for you too, Mr Murray!
    Love from Edinburgh ❤

  • Carolyn Zaremba

    Your fear that Julian’s medical history will be used against him is not unfounded. I have just made a comment to that effect on another report of the hearings. As someone who recovered from suicidal depression myself eight years ago, I know how the insane condition of his incarceration may be affecting his mental well-being and I have no doubt whatsoever that the devious and manipulative prosecution will not fail to make an attempt to use it against him. As if the entire last 10 years were not bad enough! Thank you once again for your perceptive commentary on the horse show going on in London.

  • Philip Maughan

    Your point about depression is well made. A cursory search of ‘famous people who suffered from depression’ lists Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent Van Gogh among many others. It might even be argued that the battle with depression contributed to their achievements rather than handicapped them. It’s said that creative genius for instance is often the result of an emotionally challenging episode / life, whereas those of us who have enjoyed a less thrawn upbinging are more contented and less likely to explore the wilder extremities.

  • Ingwe

    Let’s hope that all lawyers will, in future, boycott all barristers instructed by the prosecution. Let them rely on their income from the security services. I’m sure they won’t be pauperised but at least we won’t have added to their blood money.

  • john dann

    I do not know where Julian gets the strength to tolerate what he has been put through, years hold up in the Embassy, solitary confinement, the humiliation, and inhumanity of British imprisonment. We are barbaric to each other. Perhaps he does have hope in the law, in justice, or in the power of his own perseverance and fortitude.

    If I understand UK and US law, there are three legal reasons why extradition cannot take place.

    1. The charges against him are political. This has been clearly demonstrated, at least to a high degree of probability.
    2. His mental and physical condition, exacerbated by years of torture in the UK and the overwhelming threat of even harsher treatment in the US.
    3. The fact that the US had him illegally under surveillance, while at the Embassy, including his conferences with his legal advisors.

    Any one of these reasons is enough to dismiss the extradition request by the US.

    From my vantage point at a distance, one can see a pattern in the treatment of Assange in the pressure put on Ecuador to allow his arrest, to the choice of prison, the long sentence for jumping bail and the refusal to allow him, not only to be freed, pending trial, but put in the harshest circumstance with limited access to lawyers and limited ability to properly prepare and to answer the ever changing charges. If one follows this graph to its logical end, one can easily see that the judge will rule in favour of extradition and ignore, or brush aside these three reasons it ought to be denied.

    This makes me very depressed, for it make a mockery of hope, of faith in human empathy and of any semblance of justice in a very cruel world.

    I also am afflicted with depression and take meds daily, oops forgot today… I often argue that every sane person ought to be depressed by the state of the world and I find it very hard to read about Julian, or observe the silence from those who benefited so much from his work. so I’ll go and take a pill and try to emulate the courage of a great human. T’abbraccio, Julian.

  • Paul Mc

    For those interested in the technical legal basis of a mental health defense in UK extraditions, see (Extradition and Mental Health in UK Law.) This is a technical law journal article dense with footnotes, but discusses the previous autism cases where extradition to the US was successfully blocked.

    (The pdf booklet format of this document is not very convenient for online viewing. I’m trying to put this into a simplified html format and if successful will post a link to it.)

  • EoH

    Judge Baraitser would make herself a laughing stock were she to hold that the American prison or health care systems are sound. If she needs a rationale for a decision to extradite Assange, that should not be one of them.

    The USA is a carceral state. It has the highest prison population on the planet, but devotes only a fraction of the funds needed to support it. Some prisons are run by the USG, others by the states, still others by for-profit businesses. Conditions vary from passable, for those in minimum-security prisons, to unbearable. The latter include Rikers Island in NYC, most southern state prisons, federal supermax prisons (Assange’s likely destination). Prisoners work for slave wages to obtain a basic level of services, guards are harsh, in a Sean Connery-The Hill sort of way. De facto solitary confinement is common.

    The American heath care system is superb, if, like a Saudi prince, you can book an entire wing. It is a monster of bureaucracy, overcharging and denial of service if you can’t. Overcharging, in particular, is breathtaking and is one of the top three reasons Americans are forced into personal bankruptcy. Despite protests from its lobbyists, the The health insurance industry, unlike its European analogs, is lightly regulated and one of the highest profit industries in America. In effect, it also now practices medicine, delaying or denying coverage, and mandating drug and treatment regimes based on cost rather than necessity. American drugs companies and medical equipment providers are equally profitable.

    On the specific point about whether medical and psychiatric treatment is available to the average prison inmate, it’s about as available as fair and safe treatment for the average immigrant child.

  • Rosemary+MacKenzie

    Please sign the RSF Free Assange petition if you haven’t done so. Here is the link:

    This trial is such a desecration of justice by the prosecution. I’m hoping and hoping Baraitser is keeping her cards close – judging the trial on its merits and not on politics- and will find unconditionally in favour of Julian.

  • Jo

    Its from reading these reports that I begin to understand how wikileaks was is run and managed. Incredible. Never been done like this before. Numbers of people involved. Pure genius from JA to do this and what a most serious responsibility for self and world and heavy emotional and brain load so to speak….to formulate his ideals….gain the amazing technical knowledge…..knowing what he might be up against and risks involved. Very few in the world could do this. I would think self doubt…depression….mental agonies so to speak would be a perfectly normal part of the job description

  • Ingwe

    Perhaps someone should ask James Lewis QC how come being such a total prick didn’t prevent him taking silk and becoming a judge.

  • Vimto Bingo

    Just a note to say it took me a variety of attempts on my phone to be able to access unlike any other time in the past 3 years. The front page of google has articles and links and twitter but the usual direct access to this blog is nowhere. I smell a dead rat.

  • Fredi

    I guess there are some similarities between this case and that of Gary Mckinnon’s 10 years ago. In that case The US actually had evidence and a real case against Gary After years of wrangling, the UK judiciary finally did the right thing and denied extradition. Perhaps this is what Assange’s lawyers were doing yesterday.

    Check the ‘judicial review’ of this wikki entry regarding Human Rights Act 1998

  • Assange Supporter

    Seems to me like the biased Judge Baraitser has already decided to extradite Assange long before the trial even started. #FreeAssangeNow

  • John Monro

    Pity Prof. Kopelman didn’t mention Winston Churchill in his explanation as to the nature of depressive illness, as it is well known now that Winston regularly suffered bouts of depression which he called his “black dog”. Strange then he still seemed capable of leading the UK in WW2 or write “A History of the English Speaking Peoples” or his history of that war, and even become quite an accomplished artist in his latter years.

  • 6033624

    Having been away I have just caught up on reading over a week’s worth of your reports. You have given SO much detail it feels almost as if I have been at court myself. Contrast this to the press and television coverage which acts as though this isn’t happening.

    Indeed I was listening to the radio in the car today when there was an oblique reference to Assange. They contrasted the publishing of a whistleblower’s material with Wikileaks in saying that it was ‘done responsibly and not in the way Wikileaks had done’ The press are complicit with the smearing of Assange as they DO know that what they’re saying is untrue. The public can’t be blamed for their criticism of Assange if everything they hear is untrue. Deliberately publishing things that are untrue, deliberately failing to cover the hearings, deliberately ignoring facts that go against the US smears are simply propaganda. Our TV and printed news have stopped being journalists and are now ONLY propagandists. I am ashamed of them.

    Again, thank you for devoting your time and effort to this. In the future yours will be the only account of this hearing. I was about to write the only ‘detailed account’ but in fact the papers aren’t publishing anything at all. Your articles will therefore be the only historical record of these events. I’m so grateful that you are the one doing this,

  • Jimmeh

    Depressive illness is much more common than most people think. I’ve had lots of friends over the years that turned out to be bipolar; I used to think I was just a magnet for bipolar people, but now I’m pretty sure that bipolar and depression are just really common in the population.

    Sadness is something else; everyone is sad, sometimes. That’s life. It passes. Real depression (or mania) is something you often just have to learn to live with. It must be a heavy burden to carry, but a lot of people seem to manage.

  • Jen

    If commenters were to know something of Julian Assange’s family background and upbringing, they’d be truly astonished that he has managed to come as far as he has and that in some respects the fact that he is alive and a normal functioning adult is in itself an achievement and a vindication of hope.

    To say Assange’s childhood and family life was complicated might be an understatement. A good part of his late childhood / early teenage years was spent fleeing his mother’s ex-boyfriend Leif Hamilton who was a member of a New Age cult known as The Family. By the time he was in his mid-teens, Assange had lived in at least 50 different places in at least three states (New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia) and attended 37 schools. This is on top of what would have been a nomadic life traipsing around the country as his mother operated a travelling puppet show and was something of an outsider and rebel herself.

    So in some ways an unsettled childhood and family environment prepared Assange for what he is facing now. The biggest issue for him is being isolated from a support network. That must surely be the source of his depression, as it would be for most of us anyway.

    • Annie McStravick

      As we know, Julian was jailed in Wandsworth Prison in 2010, then under house arrest in Norfolk, then refuge at the embassy, then incarcerated at Belmarsh. Although Christine Assange regularly tweets about “my award-winning son”, I find it most odd that during these ten years she has never once boarded an aeroplane to go and visit him.

  • SA

    Harrowing. I fear that the risk of suicide can be used by a compassionate home secretary to stop an extradition but Pritti Patel? And then when extradited any suicide can then easily be explained that it had nothing to do with USG because the fear of extradition was irrational.

    • Pyewacket

      SA, following extradition, the USG can wash their hands, declare job done, and move on. The responsibility for, and repercussions of any suicide attempt, whether successful or not, will be felt by the prison staff on duty at the time. Everyone above that pay grade will exonerate themselves, by stating that Policies and Procedures were in place, but clearly not followed or broke down…whatever. a USG spokesperson may make a ten second statement about it, if asked. The blame game, imo, will fall onto the lowest common denominator.

  • Ingwe

    On Radio 4 Today program has been a succession of establishment hypocrites including Charlie Falconer, Alan Russbridger and of course the presenter Nick Robinson, choking in their own drool praising Harold Evans who had died. His fearless investigative reporting, his challenging of the establishment, blah de blah, ad nauseum.
    Of course, not a word about Mr Assange’s plight. What a shower of shit!

  • Goose

    Yesterday and today vivid illustrations of why Assange’s type of journalism is needed.

    Human rights lawyer Starmer sacking three MPs for opposing legislation that gives ‘de facto immunity’ for troops facing allegations of war crimes.

    This(link below) went up at a minute past midnight(UK time) last night and was shuffled out of sight by morning. The guardian really has sold out on its principles. Reading the article I can envisage no scenario whereby immunity for murder or torture of UK citizens in order to maintain deep cover status can ever be justified regardless of ‘greater good’ arguments. How would those proposing this feel were it their relatives on the receiving end? Look at the public outrage over Harry Dunn’s accidental death.

    • Ingwe

      @Goose-this is the new rules-based order dontcha know? Something is illegal, so you pass a law making it legal and all’s well. This foetid fucking country deserves everything it ultimately gets.

      • Goose

        This morning, this from NEW(?) Labour on these new proposals…

        Quote : Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “National security is the top priority for Labour and that means ensuring our security services are able to keep us safe, whilst operating within robust safeguards. We will look closely at these proposals in that spirit.”

        Domestic murder and torture of UK citizens? The govt raises the safeguard of the European Convention on Human Rights protections remaining;specifically Article 2 : The right to life, the same ECHR they’re talking about scrapping?

        • Goose

          The article has reemerged and is now on the main page.

          Quote : the security agencies want discretion and to avoid informants being unmasked by terrorists testing to see if they are prepared to commit a crime on a banned list (murder and torture).

          That’s a very dark place.

          Quote: The government says that the covert human intelligence sources bill does not amount to a “licence to kill” because it will be compliant with the European convention on human rights, which safeguards the right to life and prohibits torture.

          So there may be an HR case, but good luck uncovering it or making progress in your investigations without whistleblowers.

    • Stewart

      In a possibly not unrelated development, new “rules” are being brought in to allow various government agencies to authorise crime:

      It is a masterpiece of doublethink:
      “The highly unusual decision to create a law that sanctions crime”

      “Which agencies will be able to authorise secret crimes?
      MI5 and other intelligence bodies
      Police forces and the National Crime agency
      Immigration and Border Officers
      HM Revenue and Customs, Serious Fraud Office
      UK military forces
      Ministry of Justice (investigations in prisons)
      Competition and Markets Authority, Environment Agency, Financial Conduct Authority, Food Standards Agency, Gambling Commission and Medicines and Healthcare Regulation Authority”

      That last agency is particularly interesting:
      “The agency is responsible for:
      ensuring that medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion meet applicable standards of safety, quality and efficacy”
      does this include vaccines, I wonder?

      • Goose

        And Labour, under Starmer, is sympathetic.

        It’s rumoured Labour’s membership is down from 580,000 under Corbyn to under 200,000 now, with Starmer at the helm. Corbyn really needs to start a new party before retiring.

        • SA

          I am torn between continuing to be a member and wait for the right moment to agitate, or to resign. I know you have no such dilemma. But the party as is does not represent me in any way.

          • Goose

            I’m not a member so can’t offer advice on quitting.

            More broadly, I think Starmer’s fate among those whose eyes are yet to be opened rests on the outcome of the US presidential election. If Trump wins, action seems inevitable on Iran, action the Tories will be gung ho for – dumping the JCPOA to participate, no doubt. Any Labour support for war would be membership line that if Starmer crosses he’ll be out.

            Starmer’s truly infuriating . His slick ‘leftist” leadership promotional campaign video? His 10 pledges including this :

            4. Promote peace and human rights

            No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international peace and justice.

            The man is to the right of Blair if anything. A real ‘bait and switch’ exercise.

          • nevermind

            I was a member until Keir Stuermer was elected/ selected/ pushed into representing the red Tories.

            Judged by his actions yesterday I was wholly right in leaving. This man wants to carry on where Blair left off. He will lose many more members and then he will have to rely on people such as Lord Levy to get his election material paid for, delivered via post, as doorknocking will be passee.

        • Goose

          To add..

          If Biden wins I think he’ll return the US to the JCPOA, avoiding a dangerous escalation.

          The JCPOA was – after all, the Obama administration’s deal.

        • Anna Ioannou

          I cancelled my membership after Craig published report about some PLP members actively sabotaged last Election and Stammer become Leader.

          That’s not the Party I wish to be part off.


      • giyane


        The BBC suggested that the new legislation could enable law enforcers to infiltrate criminal activity.

        A probation officer once told me she had never condoned any criminal behaviour because it was her job to uphold the law ( even by reminding ).

        I’m getting the impression from this case that David Leigh was infiltrating Wikileaks in order to shop Assange.
        Curious coincidence that this new legislation legitimises such treachery.
        I bet it’s not invoked when Tories have been led off the rails.

        In old wisdom this new law sends a message that crime is partially acceptable. In old wisdom that is theoretically s very stupid idea. But new wisdom wants the State to be allowed continuously to commit crime while stopping others.

        The world just doesn’t work like that.
        Do as I do, is the system that works and the system that today has been put in the bin.

  • Geoff Reynolds

    ………..I had to laugh when i read this about American healthcare….

    Lewis pressed Kopelman again, and asked that if prison conditions and healthcare in the USA were good, and if the sentence were short, would that cause an alteration to his clinical opinion. Kopelman replied that if those factors were true, then his opinion would change, but he doubted they were true.

    My own mother fell ill during a holiday to Las Vegas.

    She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was given a scan and xrays and placed on a drip and kept in for three days.
    Her room was not clean, the staff impolite, and the first thing they asked her on admission was access to her credit card……….

    Her final bill was £9,300.00 (nine thousand, three hundred pounds)

    The American penal system is so corrupted by private concerns that sheriff’s, mayors. governors and judges have been in receipt of backhanders for cramming inmates into the facilities for petty offences that would normally receive a caution.

    Assange would probably be murdered in his cell……………………….

    Obviously those watching him would be on the same coffee break and any surveillance cameras would have an intermittent fault…

    You are dealing with a nation that assassinates it;s own politicians, invents weapons of mass destruction on those it wishes to pillage and change governance and rejoices at the mass murder of innocent human beings.

    Judge Ratbraiser lower than a snakes belly and a representation of all what is wrong in the world today.

    • giyane

      Geoff Reynolds

      The system you describe in the US has probably been going in for years.
      Right wing governments here are trying to change our system to be like theirs.
      In fact they used algorithms in the electoral system to start tearing our system apart.

      How do I know that? Because Sir Kier dared to criticise Corbyn. What an ungrateful toad

  • Sue Barnett

    Hello Craig

    This is the first time I have read your blog, although I have been wanting to since I first heard of it in February. In recent months I forgot your last name. I thought perhaps if I did a search, something like, “Craig, blog, Assange”, it might come up, but I have been pretty overwhelmed myself, fleeing neighbour intimidation and violence and authorities which blame me and would gleefully section me at the drop o a hat, and did not get round to it. I apologise for this. Apart from the fact that you were fired as a diplomat for your outspokenness on human rights in Uzbekistan, I did not know anything about you unto today, reading this and Wikipedia. I feel my time could have been better employed reading more.

    I got into the public gallery for the morning session yesterday. I was horrified and hurt, as usual, by the arrogant assertions and assumptions posturing as symptom presentation and diagnosis. Over and over I knew that much of this was projection onto patients of things found widely in psychiatrists themselves. I laughed at a couple of points with the blind absurdity of it all. I had a conversation with someone else in the gallery during the break. I sat at the back in the corner, out of the way and relaxed with room to put my feet on the chair beside me (thank you, Covid), and after the mid session break I gave into the tears, wept silently in the corner, which made me care a little less about the distractions and watchful observations from staff on the floor beneath.

  • N_

    Suddenly, Baraitser repeated out loud the part quote that if prison conditions in the US were good and the sentence were short, then Kopelman’s clinical opinion would change, and ostentatiously typed it onto her laptop, as though it were very significant indeed.

    If my auntie were my uncle, she’d have a pair of knackers. But she isn’t and she doesn’t.

    What a trooper Baraitser is. Real West End material.

    • N_

      “Vanessa Baraitser” is an anagram of “Brave Satan Arises”.

      It’s always personal. This is what the nicey-nicey middle class left doesn’t get. It’s always personal. No exceptions.
      The great Saul Alinsky understood this well.

  • Cynicus

    Tributes are being paid the late Harold Evans as a campaigning journalist and editor. Several refer to his predecessor as editor of the Northern Echo, WT Stead, who famously saw his appointment as, “ a glorious opportunity of attacking the Devil.”

    Craig surely occupies that space today. His coverage of the judicial proceedings against Julian Assange and Alex Salmond show that the devil is still very much among us, even if not literally-although my skepticism diminishes with each of his reports.

  • Stuart

    The spinelessness of the Australian Government in not defending one of its citizens disgusts me. Craig, do you know whether there is at least an observer from the Australian High Commission present at the hearing?

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