Assange Calls On U.S. To End 'Witchhunt' Against WikiLeaks
August 19, 2012
Appearing on a balcony at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Julian Assange called on U.S. President Barack Obama to end what he described as the U.S. "witchhunt" of his WikiLeaks organization.
"I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witchhunt 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," Obama said.
It was the first public appearance of the WikiLeaks founder since he sought refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over sexual offenses allegations.
Assange says he fears that if extradited to Sweden, he could be handed over to the United States where he could face persecution after WikiLeaks released thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010.
In his 10-minute statement on August 19, Assange also called on the United States to release Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who is suspected of passing the secret U.S. files to WikiLeaks. Manning has been charged with aiding the enemy and is awaiting trial.
Ecuador on August 16 gave Assange asylum, while Britain says it will not allow him safe passage out of the country and will fulfill its legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
Assange thanked Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa for the "courage" he has shown in granting him asylum.
Correa said August 18 Ecuador gave Assange asylum specifically to shelter him from a purported attempt to hand him over to the United States.
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June after exhausting all legal venues in Britain in his fight against extradition.
In his speech, Assange also thanked a crowd of supporters gathered outside the embassy who erupted in cheers as he made his appearance.
Dozens of British police officers were deployed around the embassy.
Britain has said Assange, an Australian national, will be detained as soon as he stepped outside the embassy.
But Foreign Secretary William Hague has also said Britain was seeking an "amicable" resolution to the standoff.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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