UN expert believes Assange could face torture in the US

The UN rapporteur on torture has appealed to the British government to suspend the possible extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.

Assange's arguments must be examined in detail on the basis of considerable concern that he would be at risk of "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" if extradited, Alice Jill Edwards said in Geneva on Tuesday.

She called on the UK government to "take all the necessary measures to safeguard Mr Assange's physical and mental health".

A hearing will be held at the High Court in London on February 20 and 21.

The US is demanding Assange's extradition to face charges of stealing and publishing secret material from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. They are said to have jeopardised the lives of whistleblowers.

Assange could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison in the US if convicted. Supporters see him as a courageous journalist who brought war crimes to light. Assange evaded the authorities for several years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He has been in a British high-security prison since April 2019.

Assange has suffered from depression for a long time and is suicidal, Edwards said. American assurances that he would be treated humanely were not enough, she said, among other things, because they are not binding.

UN rapporteurs are independent experts who work free of charge. Edwards was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council.

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