Julian Assange calls on US to end WikiLeaks 'witch-hunt'
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Julian Assange calls on US to end WikiLeaks 'witch-hunt'

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange made his first public appearance in two months from a balcony at the Ecuador embassy, thanking his supporters in a speech that showed he was still in the fight. Assange calls on Obama to 'do the right thing'

world Updated: Aug 20, 2012 01:41 IST
Ecuador,WikiLeaks,Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called on US President Barack Obama to end a "witch hunt" against his secret-spilling website, after appearing in public for the first time since he took refuge inside Ecuador's embassy in London two months ago.

Speaking to reporters, the Australian journalist thanked the Ecuadorian President, various Latin American coutries, as well his supporters. "I thank the the staff and supporters of Wikileaks. I also thank the people of US, UK, Sweden for supporting me despite their govt being against me," he said.

"To my family and children, we will be reunited soon."

The whistleblower journalist also asked US President Barack Obama to renounce the witchhunt against Wikileaks.

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

Read his full speech here.

Assange also called for the release of Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks source, describing him as one of the world's foremost political prisoners.

Assange took shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19 after he exhausted all routes of appeal in the UK to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sexual misconduct allegations.

London diplomats have spoken with Ecuadorian Ambassador Ana Alban since the South American country granted Assange asylum on Thursday, a move which threatens to further complicate Sweden's two-year long attempt to have the activist extradited from Britain.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, addresses his supporters from the Ecuadorian embassy, London. (AP Photo)

British officials in Ecuador's capital, Quito, have also contacted the country's foreign ministry to discuss a resumption of talks over the case, and to quell anger prompted when Britain appeared to suggest it could invoke a little-known law to strip Ecuador's embassy of diplomatic privileges -- meaning police would be free to move in and detain Assange.

Diplomats have repeated assurances that Britain was simply setting out the country's legal options, not making a specific threat to storm the nation's mission -- a small apartment in London's ritzy Knightsbridge district, close to the famed Harrods department store.

"We are continuing to seek a diplomatic solution," a British government official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment publicly on the talks with Ecuador. "We remain ready to continue the conversations we have had, but that is now a question for the Ecuadorians."

Britain had held seven rounds of formal talks with Ecuador over the stalemate before Thursday's decision. But Foreign Secretary William Hague insists Britain has no option but to meet the obligations of a European arrest warrant and send Assange to Stockholm.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who is representing Assange, said Ecuador may consider making an appeal to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in order to compel Britain to grant Assange safe passage out of the country.

Assange, an Australian, shot to international prominence in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website began publishing a huge trove of American diplomatic and military secrets -- including 250,000 US embassy cables that highlight the sensitive, candid and often embarrassing backroom dealings of US diplomats.

As he toured the globe to highlight the disclosures, two women accused him of sex offences during a trip to Sweden.

Police outside the Ecuador's embassy where Julian Assange is residing in London. (Reuters/Olivia Harris)

Assange and his supporters claim the Swedish case is merely the opening gambit in a Washington-orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the US over his work with WikiLeaks -- something disputed by both Swedish authorities and the women involved.

Diplomatic cables obtained under freedom of information laws and published Saturday by Australia's The Age newspaper showed Australian diplomats have held discussions on Assange's fate with the US.

A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange outside Ecuador's embassy in London. (Reuters/Neil Hall)

A Virginia grand jury is studying evidence that might link Assange to Pfc Bradley Manning, the US soldier who has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing the secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial. No action against Assange has yet been taken.

A document written in February detailed how Australia's ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley, had asked officials in Washington for advice on "the direction and likely outcome of the investigation" and requested "early advice of any decision to indict or seek extradition of Mr. Assange."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters travelling on Air Force One with President Barack Obama to campaign stops in New Hampshire on Saturday that "at this point the United States views this as a matter to be resolved between the British government, the Ecuadorian government and the Swedish government."

"At this point we've not intervened in this matter and I don't have any guidance now as to whether this would be a matter we intervene in," Earnest said.

WikiLeaks declined to comment in more detail on Assange's planned statement Sunday, however the organization has said Assange plans to speak outside the embassy -- which if correct, could expose him to arrest.

If the 41-year-old steps foot outside Ecuador's mission, he faces immediate detention by the dozens of British police who surround the building and are stationed inside a shared lobby.

While Assange stays inside, he is seemingly out of reach of British authorities, prompting speculation that he may address the public from a window or the embassy's small balcony.

Supporting Assangevideo-icon
A placard is held by a supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange outside the Ecuador embassy in London. (Reuters/Olivia Harris)

(With inputs from AP)

Read more:

Timeline: Assange fate in hands of UK top court

Swedish pact sought in Assange impasse

WikiLeaks urges Sweden to rule out Assange extradition to US

Assange saga clouds freedom of speech agenda

Assange faces boredom, stress inside embassy

US rejects diplomatic asylum to Assange

US denies any intent to persecute Assange

Does the US have a case against Julian Assange?

Key facts about Ecuador and its President Rafael Correa

Assange at HT summit: China is sucking out CBI's secrets

VIDEO: Ecuador accuses Britain of 'intolerable threat' in Assange row

First Published: Aug 19, 2012 07:55 IST