LONDON (Sputnik) - The UK Foreign Secretary has refuted UN Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer’s assessment that Julian Assange had been subjected to years-long "psychological torture" during his refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and was a victim of "collective persecution" in the West as wrong and interfering in the UK judicial process.
"This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgements without his interference or inflammatory accusations", Hunt wrote on Twitter.
After visiting Assange in London's high-security Belmarsh prison earlier in the day, Melzer said that the prominent whistleblower had for years been "deliberately exposed… to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture." The UN official also urged the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ecuador to stop their "collective persecution" of Assange.
Melzer’s visit came after Assange was transferred to the jail's health ward and WikiLeaks voiced concerns over his deteriorating health. The whistleblowing organization explained that its founder continued to lose weight and was even allegedly incapable of maintaining a normal conversation with one of his lawyers.
Assange was arrested in London on April 11 and sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail back in 2012, when he claimed asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK capital to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges, and possibly being sent to the United States after that.
If extradited to the United States, where he is wanted on espionage charges, the whistleblower may face up to 175 years in prison. In Sweden, Assange will face the reopened rape case against him. London will now consider which extradition request to prioritize.
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