MOSCOW, October 14. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes in the possibility of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being tortured while in pretrial detention in the United Kingdom.
The Russian top diplomat made the statement in a Rossiya-24 broadcast on Monday night, commenting on the latest scandal surrounding Washington’s recent publication of a confidential transcript of a phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky.
"You can see how one-on-one conversations are being treated in Washington: they are trying to make some terrible sins out of them. But, in this case, many questions arise regarding the freedom of access to information," he said. "By making this principle an absolute truth, as Democrats on the Capitol Hill are trying to, they should also lift charges against [former NSA contractor] Edward Snowden, release Julian Assange and stop resorting to torture, to which he, by the look of it, is subjected while in the UK detention."
Speakinga about the transcript controversy in the US, the Russian foreign minister noted the importance of one-on-one contacts in diplomacy.
"In any case, I believe that one-on-one meetings is when you can look someone in the eyes and understand how ready he is to be sincere. I always have respect for those who express their sincerity without any detriment to the interests of their nation, which he obliged to protect," Lavrov continued. "On one hand, this may sound quite paradoxical. That’s a difficult combination, but I assure you that it works."
Lavrov added that he is always ready to both one-on-one talks and talks among delegations, depending on the accepting side’s wishes.
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 and rape charges had been brought against him in Sweden in 2012 by two women, Assange sought refuge in London's Ecuadorian Embassy to escape extradition to the US, where he uninterruptedly spent almost seven years. In April, the authorities of Ecuador withdrew his asylum, London’s Metropolitan Police immediately arrested him for failing to appear in court under the 2012 warrant, as well as in accordance with the extradition request sent by Washington to the British authorities in 2018.
On May 1, Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching his British bail conditions.
On May 23, the US Department of Justice unsealed 17 charges against the WikiLeaks founder, which became the basis for issuing the extradition request to London. The charges "relate to disclosures of war crimes and human rights abuses by the US government", the WikiLeaks website says. Assange may face up to 175 years behind bars.