Russian returned home in prisoner swap with U.S. says he was tortured in Liberia

·2-min read

(Reuters) - A Russian pilot who returned to Moscow from the United States this week as part of a prisoner swap said on Thursday he had been tortured in custody in Liberia before his extradition to America.

Konstantin Yaroshenko also alleged he had been beaten at a military base in the United States, a claim rejected by the White House.

Yaroshenko was detained in 2010 in Liberia by U.S. special forces as part of a major drug bust. U.S. authorities then convicted him for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the United States and he was serving a 20-year sentence.

He was released in exchange for former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who was convicted in Russia in 2019 of endangering the lives of two police officers while drunk on a visit to Moscow. Washington branded Reed's trial a "theater of the absurd".

Of his time in Liberia, Yaroshenko said: "They really worked on me. If you saw that torture room now -- it's not for the faint of heart. It's like something from a horror movie."

He did not say whether the alleged torture had been carried out by Liberians or Americans.

A Liberian government spokesperson did not respond to calls on Thursday requesting comment.

'VERY HARD'

Flanked by his wife and daughter in the television studio of Russian media firm Izvestia, Yaroshenko said he was sat on a chair with his arms shackled and beaten for three days.

"Heels, kidneys, genitals, strangled -- believe me, everything there was serious... Of course, to survive that was very hard," he said.

Yaroshenko said he was then flown to a military base in the United States, asked to sign some documents and beaten when he refused.

Responding to his comments, a White House official said Yaroshenko had received "full and fair due process in the U.S. legal system... the United States Government adheres to the rule of law and treats detainees humanely."

Yaroshenko said the U.S. prison where he was held was overcrowded and unsanitary, adding that he intended to prove his innocence and his mistreatment. "I want to hold the U.S. to account," he said.

U.S. officials say the prisoner swap does not represent any change in Washington's stance on the war in Ukraine. It has been providing diplomatic and military support to Ukraine since Russian forces invaded the country on Feb. 24.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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