Assange considers offer to appear before US Senate committee

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, in this May 19, 2017 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Assange considers offer to appear before US Senate committee

  • The US committee’s request comes at a time of growing speculation about Assange’s future and his possible ejection from the embassy after six years
  • Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy since he was granted asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about allegations of sex crimes

LONDON: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for six years, is considering an offer to appear before a US Senate committee to discuss alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, his lawyer said on Thursday.
WikiLeaks published a letter from the US Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday which asked Assange to make himself available to testify in person at a closed hearing as part of its investigation into whether Moscow meddled to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
Russia rejects the claims and Trump has denied any collusion.
“The US Senate Select Committee request confirms their interest in hearing from Mr.Assange,” lawyer Jennifer Robinson said in a statement.
“The inquiry has asked for him to appear in person at a mutually agreeable time and place. We are seriously considering the offer but must ensure Mr.Assange’s protection is guaranteed.”
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy since he was granted asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about allegations of sex crimes, accusations that were later dropped.
However, he would be arrested by British police for breaching bail conditions should he leave the building, and he has always said he fears being extradited to the United States for having published a huge cache of US diplomatic and military secrets on the WikiLeaks website.
There were no details about how any interview with the US senators would be carried out, and a spokesman for Assange said: “Anything is possible with this.”
“’In person’ hasn’t been ruled out,” he added.
Ahead of the 2016 election, WikiLeaks published emails hacked from the Democratic Party and the personal email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Last month, a US federal grand jury charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking the Democratic computer networks as part of Moscow’s meddling in the election to help Republican Trump.
The US committee’s request comes at a time of growing speculation about Assange’s future and his possible ejection from the embassy after six years.
On a visit to Madrid last month, Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno confirmed that Ecuador and Britain were in talks to try to end his stay at the embassy.
Days earlier, a source close to Assange told Reuters that the diplomatic impasse was coming to a head.


Russia says Taliban will attend Afghanistan talks in Moscow

Updated 40 min 42 sec ago
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Russia says Taliban will attend Afghanistan talks in Moscow

MOSCOW: Russia's foreign minister said on Tuesday the Taliban have accepted an invitation to attend talks on Afghanistan in Moscow.

Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that Russia has invited the Taliban to the Sept. 4 talks and received a positive response, voicing hope for “productive” negotiations, AP reported.

Lavrov reaffirmed that Russia's contacts with the Taliban aimed to ensure the safety of Russian citizens in Afghanistan and encourage the Taliban to abandon hostilities and engage in a dialogue with the government.

Foreign Ministry official Zamir Kabulov was cited by Interfax on Monday as saying Moscow had invited the Taliban, which is banned in Russia and considered a terrorist organisation.

Many of the Taliban's leadership were former Mujahideen fighters who battled the Soviet Union after its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 until a humiliating 

Russia's Foreign Ministry also strongly rejected the claim by Afghan Ambassador to Moscow, Abdul Qayyum Kochai, who said that Russia hopes to use the Taliban to combat the Daesh. 

It hailed the Afghan government's offer of a holiday cease-fire, adding that the Taliban's apparent rejection of it is regrettable.

Abdul Kayum Kuchai, Afghanistan's ambassador in Moscow, welcomed the Taliban's involvement in the talks, the RIA news agency reported.

Russia conducted international talks on Afghanistan in April last year, but the United States did not attend.

In Kabul on Tuesday, an hours-long attack came to an ened when two militants were killed in a clearance operation, the military said.