Assange Asks US To Come Clean On Leaks Action

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Australian whistleblower Julian Assange last night urged the US to end its “witch-hunt” against Wikileaks, in his first public statement since entering Ecuador’s London embassy.

He was speaking from a balcony of the embassy, where he has taken refuge and been granted asylum after the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen his appeal against extradition.

In his speech – which he ended with a thumbs-up to supporters and the gathered media – Assange also called for the release of Bradley Manning, the US Army private who for almost two years has been held incommunicado and without trial, accused of leaking classified documents to the Wikileaks site, and of other political prisoners.

But, to the surprise of many, he did not use the occasion to demand the US renounce any plans to seek his further extradition to the USA should he be sent to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual misconduct matters.

In his 10-minute speech, Assange also thanked Ecuador’s president who has granted him asylum. He wore a crisp blue shirt and a red tie, and sported a new close-cropped haircut.

Said the Australian: “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 USA. Will it return to, and re-affirm, 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?”

He added: “I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt 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”

Assange also thanked the crowd of around 100 below in the Knightsbridge street, just around the corner from the Harrods department store. “On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy, the police descended on this building. You came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world’s eyes with you,” he said.

“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. 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.”

The 41-year-old Australian also thanked his family including his children “who have been denied their father. Forgive me, we will be reunited soon,” he said.

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