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Assange calls on US to drop 'witch-hunt against WikiLeaks'

Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the WikiLeaks founder describes Bradley Manning as “a hero and an example”.

Julian Assange acknowledges supporters before speaking from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Julian Assange acknowledges supporters before speaking from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Image: Sky News screengrab

WIKILEAKS FOUNDER Julian Assange has called on the United States to dissolve its investigations into his website – saying President Barack Obama must end his country’s “witch-hunt on WikiLeaks”.

Speaking from a balcony window at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been seeking political asylum for over two months, Assange said the US must “pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful”.

The 41-year-old Australian also expressed gratitude to Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa for granting him status as a political refugee this week, and thanked the Ecuadorian public “for supporting and defending” their constitutional value of universal citizenship.

“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression,” Assange insisted.

“We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America,” he said before a crowd of media and supporters, continuing:

Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values, it was founded on? Or will it lurch off the precipice, bringing us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecutions, and citizens must whisper in the dark?

The address from a ground floor balcony window – his first public appearance since losing a UK Supreme Court appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over sexual assault allegations – was a deliberately pointed choice of location.

Though Assange has been granted political asylum, he is unable to physically travel to Ecuador, as the UK says it will not allow him passage to an airport to travel there.

Assange refuses to travel to Sweden, fearing it will result in further extradition to the US where he fears draconian punishment from authorities who are angered by WikiLeaks’ publication of confidential diplomatic cables and classified logs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is therefore sequestered in the Ecuadorian embassy, which under international protocols is considered the territory of that country and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of British police.

‘I’m here because I can’t be there’

Thanking WikiLeaks supporters who had congregated outside the embassy on Wednesday night, after Britain threatened to revoke the building’s diplomatic status and forcibly detain him, Assange said: “I am here today because I cannot be there, with you, today.”

He went on:

I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounces its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks.

The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. [...]

There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organisation, be it WikiLeaks or be it the New York Times. The US administration’s war on whistleblowers must end.

Assange also called for the release of US army private Bradley Manning, who remains in detention at a military prison in Kansas under suspicion of having supplied WikiLeaks with much of its key documents.

“If Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to all of us, and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners,” Assange insisted. “Bradley Manning must be released.”

Earlier, Assange’s lawyer Baltasar Garzon – a former Spanish judge known for his bold pursuit of human rights – said he had been instructed by Assange to undertake an unspecified legal action which would guarantee his safety.

He refused to elaborate on the nature of that instruction, however.

Assange faces boredom and stress as embassy standoff continues

Poll: Should the UK stop Julian Assange from seeking asylum in Ecuador?

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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