Letter to Ecuadorian President in support of Assange - Exclusive interview with Mary Kostakidis
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.
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.
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.