Julian Assange urges US to end Wikileaks 'witch-hunt'

 

Mr Assange called for the US government to "renounce its witch hunt against Wikileaks"

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Julian Assange has urged the US to end its "witch-hunt" against Wikileaks, in his first public statement since entering Ecuador's London embassy.

He also called for the release of Bradley Manning, who is awaiting trial in the US accused of leaking classified documents to the Wikileaks site.

Mr Assange spoke from a balcony at the embassy and thanked Ecuador's president, who has granted him asylum.

He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.

The 41-year-old said the United States must also stop its "war on whistleblowers".

He added: "The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.

"The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.

Mr Assange also said the United States was facing a choice between re-affirming the "revolutionary values it was founded on" or "dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark".

Legal battle

Analysis

The show for today is over, but the stand-off at the Ecuadorean embassy and the diplomatic row over Julian Assange's fate are not.

Britain says it won't grant the Wikileaks' leader safe passage so he can go to Ecuador, but it has had to back away from a warning it made last week that it could find a legal basis to enter the embassy and arrest Mr Assange.

That deeply riled not only Ecuador, but other countries in South America. It also provoked doubts about its legality. Given the potential international ramifications, it's highly unlikely British police will storm into the ground-floor mission.

But neither is it likely that Britain or Sweden will give the guarantees that Ecuador and Mr Assange want - that he won't face onward extradition to the US.

So for now the stalemate continues. Police are posted at both the front and back of the Ecuadorean embassy to ensure Julian Assange doesn't escape - and Britain is faced with a costly security operation.

The US is carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks, which has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables, embarrassing several governments and international businesses.

Alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning, 24, an intelligence analyst in the American army who served in Iraq, is alleged to have leaked US government cables to the whistle-blowing website. He is set to face a court martial.

In an interview for US television in 2010, Mr Assange denied any knowledge of Pte Manning.

Mr Assange began his speech by thanking his supporters, many of whom have been holding a vigil outside the building in Knightsbridge.

Speaking of the visit by police officers to the embassy on Wednesday, Mr Assange said: "Inside this embassy after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses and that is because of you.

"If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Conventions the other night it is because the world was watching and the world was watching because you were watching."

It is an established international convention that local police and security forces are not permitted to enter an embassy, unless they have the express permission of the ambassador.

The Foreign Office has said it remained committed to reaching a "negotiated solution" but following its obligations under the Extradition Act, it would arrest Mr Assange if he left the embassy.

'Binding obligation'

In 2010, two female Wikileaks supporters accused Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.

Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.

In a statement issued after the Ecuadorean decision to grant Mr Assange political asylum, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK was under a "binding obligation" to extradite him to Sweden.

Julian Assange talking with his legal adviser Baltasar Garzon Julian Assange has been talking with his legal adviser Baltasar Garzon inside the Ecuadorean embassy

Mr Assange entered the embassy after the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has suggested Mr Assange could co-operate with Sweden if assurances are given that there would be no extradition to a third country.

Mr Assange's balcony appearance occurred as foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations were gathering in Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil, to discuss the diplomatic situation caused by the asylum decision.

Shortly before Mr Assange delivered his speech, his legal adviser Baltasar Garzon said the Australian had told lawyers to carry out "a legal action" protecting "the rights of Wikileaks [and] Julian himself".

Mr Garzon, a former judge, did not give specific details of the action but said it would also extend to "all those currently being investigated".

Barrister and former government lawyer, Carl Gardner, said Mr Assange's options were now severely limited.

"There's no legal action he can take now. All he can do is make these public calls for people to do things he would like them to do and play a waiting game with the British authorities.

"The British government is likely to think that time is on their side. It's Julian Assange who is stuck in this embassy. It's the Ecuadoreans who have the problem of him on their hands and perhaps one of them is likely to tire of the situation before Britain."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 874.

    161.Rich
    Many complaints were made in February 2012 when Christopher Tapping was extradited to the US. The UK agrees many more cases, by far, than the US does. Therefore, extradition directly from UK is politically sensitive.
    The extradition request was signed by Swedish Minister and not the court....
    The charges of sexual abuse were dropped before but conveniently re-emerged recently...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 873.

    Sweden is the USA's lapdog on issues like this. The whole Pirate Bay case proves that much.
    He had no case to answer in Sweden, he didn't assault anyone, but the case was re-opened because Sweden changed the rules. They want him there so they can send him to the US. Its obvious to anyone with a brain.

  • Comment number 872.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 871.

    798.Edward_de_Bonehead
    According to the daily mail at the time he did leak things about Russia which would be far easier to leave their embassy than the Ecuadorian one as well but then I know from your previous that you like to dismiss the left wing reports.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 870.

    @813 wucash. And it's also a man's right to refuse sex. When are the sisters going to acknowledge that they are not the dead centre of the sexual universe around which all others orbit. Hey girls, it's not only women who suffer abuses of power.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 869.

    Lets not forget how the US abuses the extradition treaties. In the UK, they are supposed to be for terrorists etc but the US is currently trying to extradite a UK student for having links on his website to alleged pirate TV sites. Wikileaks did the world a great service when it published the US diplomatic files - the US thinks it runs the planet.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 868.

    Anybody with half a brain can see this is just to send a message and scare anyone who gets near to the truth regarding corruption and fraud.

    'Don't even think of disagreeing with what we tell you because you will be denigrated and forced to STFU'

    Whats next the police breaking up legal protests when directed to by the government to limit free speech?. . .oh hang on a minute

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 867.

    824.

    Because they reveal the names of agents & outline strategies, ok that information was redacted from the online version wikileaks published but Assange & the many people who worked on the documents still have access to the uncensored version.

    Is the US supposed to trust all them unconditionally?




    A better question would be should we trust the US/UK unconditionally?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 866.

    Extradite to America, how can that be consistent with human rights when they still electrocute people to death, and they call that democracy.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 865.

    I wonder if the Ecuadorian Embassy has given Julian the password for the wifi connection?

    It would be the irony of the century if he was caught stealing Ecuadorian secrets and passing them to wikileaks.

    This guy is a hairball that needs handing over to the Guantanamo caretakers.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 864.

    Why is the BBC giving such prominence to this arrogant law-breaking, law evading, alimentary tract termination [with apologies to nice alimentary tract terminations].

    Are you trying to bury some bad news for the left ? Have Ed Milliband and Ed Balls set up home together ? Harriet Harman exposed as a Russian spy ? Must be something bad.

  • Comment number 863.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 862.

    809.westlondon

    Actually the UK didnt actually threaten to storm the embassy, they just pointed out the law in regards to embassies. And if someone is under criminal investigation it makes a claim of political asslyum invalid, not to mention he is on UK Police Bail. What next anyone suspect of a crime gonna run to a embassy for protection lol

  • Comment number 861.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 860.

    834. Richard Grant

    I entirely agree with Rich. I'd take my chances with Sweden over Britain any day when it comes to US extradition.
    ---------
    Under normal circumstances I would agree.However, doesn't it strike you that the Swedes have been uncharacteristically inept and inflexible?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 859.

    Whatever your views about Assange as an individual, maintaining the existence and integrity of Wikileaks is paramount.
    Individuals globally need access to full facts.
    That includes cables etc sent by their (often) naieve, ignorant, incompetent, smug diplomats overseas. National security means making everyone aware of the FULL extent of problems - many created by their own governments. QED

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 858.

    @818. I had understood that Ecuador's grant of political assylum to Assange was conditional upon him not making any political statements.

    No doubt his statement was agreed with Ecuador beforehand.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 857.

    780.LucyJ
    "in USA newspapers writers are allowed to criticize the President or govt without persecution"

    Thats only because the money men own the papers and if they are attacked the president loses his job
    For all normal people you are sheep happy to just ask how high when ordered by the money men to jump
    America the home of murder without trial and imprsionment for decades without charge

  • Comment number 856.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 855.

    All the man did was expose some truth, is that a crime? Everything that happened since is an attempt to discredit him and nail him one way or the other.
    I'm surprised the UK government hasn't allowed the US to storm the embassy already. Then again, they're not very good at storming embassies are they?

 

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