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Russia urges global, human rights agencies to undertake efforts to protect Assange

The case of Julian Assange is a blow to the institution of investigative journalism, the Russian diplomat said

MOSCOW, February 27. /TASS/. International and human rights agencies must undertake efforts to prevent a crime against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Thursday.

The diplomat reiterated that hearings on Assange’s extradition to the US opened in London on February 24. "We all understand pretty well how this extradition will end if it does take place, we’ve seen more than enough examples," Zakharova pointed out. "Assange's condition causes more than just concerns, international experts reported it as critical. And the reason is not his age, but a continuous exposure to psychological tortures," the diplomat stressed.

"We urge the human rights community and concerned international agencies to firmly voice their position and make every effort to see that justice prevails before the worst happens," the spokeswoman said, adding that the case of Julian Assange is a blow to the institution of investigative journalism.

Such punitive measures against a journalist are an absolutely inadmissible action in the 21st century, and are a disgrace to the involved western countries that consider themselves democratic and free. "It is amazing that everything that happens to Assange is the price that the journalist pays for being conscientious in his job, and actually - in his civic duty," the diplomat stressed.

She also drew attention to the position of the so-called independent British media which make only brief isolated reports, instead "of a real general protest". "We all remember well how the absolutely mysterious Skripal case was covered in the British media, how states and individuals were accused, guesses were made that were not substantiated by facts or data," the diplomat noted. "However, everything is clear in this case - there as a concrete individual who is still alive. Maybe it makes sense for the British media in this case to do everything to prevent this crime?" she asked.

Assange case

Julian Assange founded the WikiLeaks portal in 2006 to publish classified information about the activities of a number of governments, including that of the United States. After harassment charges had been brought against him in Sweden in 2012, Assange sought refuge in London's Ecuadorian Embassy to escape extradition. In April 2019, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno withdrew his asylum and Assange was arrested by the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police over his failure to appear in court in London in 2012, as well as on a 2018 extradition request from Washington.

On May 1, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his British bail conditions. If extradited to the United States and found guilty on all charges, Assange could face 175 years in prison.

Skripal saga

On March 4, 2018 former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal, convicted in Russia of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia were affected by a nerve agent, if the British version of the affair is to be believed. The alleged attack took place in Salisbury. London later claimed that the chemical substance had been developed in Russia and accused Moscow of complicity. Russia dismissed all speculations on this score. In particular, it stated that programs for developing such an agent had never existed in the Soviet Union or Russia. Britain’s Porton Down laboratory failed to identify the origin of the substance that poisoned the Skripals.