WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s attack on US ‘may break sanctuary terms’
JULIAN Assange has intensified the international row over his status with a political attack on the United States that threatens to break the terms of his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
• Julian Assange makes first public appearance in two months
• Ecuador have granted WikiLeaks founder political asylum
• Assange faces extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations
Speaking publicly for the first time since fleeing to the embassy to avoid extradition, the WikiLeaks founder demanded the US “renounce its witch-hunt” against the organisation.
The ten-minute speech, delivered from a balcony yesterday afternoon, could infringe a ban on political statements, which was imposed as part of Ecuador granting him diplomatic asylum on Thursday.
Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino said standard conditions had been placed on Mr Assange, such as not making political statements that could affect Ecuador’s relations with friendly countries.
Mr Assange also attacked the UK government for its “threat” to storm the embassy to arrest him and praised his supporters for turning out to show
The government has since sought to play down the move, stressing it was seeking a diplomatic resolution to the impasse.
However, Mr Assange, 41, gave no indication about his next move, other than to promise his family “we will be reunited soon”.
Mr Assange faces deportation to Sweden to answer four sex-related charges alleged by two women in 2010.
The Australian fears he would be handed over to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks publishing secret government diplomatic and military communications in 2010.
Speaking yesterday beside the blue, red and yellow stripes of the Ecuadorian flag on the embassy’s corner balcony, Mr Assange directed his main fire at the US.
He said: “As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.
“Will it return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, 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?
“I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing – the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks.”
Mr Assange also called for the US to release Bradley Manning, who is being held at a US military base, charged with transferring classified information. This is believed to have been passed to WikiLeaks.
He described the US Army intelligence analyst as a “hero” and “one of the world’s foremost
Addressing a 200-strong crowd, he praised their support when police had surrounded the building on Wednesday night.
He said: “You came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world’s eyes with you.
“Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape.
“But I knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you,” Mr Assange said.
“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.”
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