Sunday, August 19, 2012

Julian Assange calls on U.S. to end 'witch hunt' against his website

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange made his first public appearance on Sunday, two months after leaving the soil of the U.K. for the soil of Ecuador - via the London Ecuadorian embassy.

Assange, 41, has battled for two years against efforts to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual misconduct against two women there. Although making his Sunday statement in public, he did so in safety; he addressed a crowd of over 200 supporters, reporters and dozens of British police from the balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy.

Assange made no reference about those allegations, which he has long denied and called consensual sex. Instead, he used his appearance to call on the U.S. to halt a politically-motivated "witch hunt" against himself and his Wikileaks website. He said, reading aloud a prepared statement,

"I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The Unites States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters."

Assange also called for the release of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an alleged WikiLeaks source. Manning is alleged to have provided Wikileaks information that it used in several of its leaks. Assange went on to describe Manning as "one of the world's foremost political prisoners," adding:

"If Bradley Manning really did as he is accused, he is a hero, an example to us all, and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners."

Assange also strove to draw parallels between himself and the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot. Three of the group's members were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison after a performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin.

"There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response."

Earlier in the week, Ecuador granted Assange poitical asylum. However, any attempt by Assange to exit the U.K. and fly to Ecuador would be intercepted; authorities are stationed just outside the embassy's doors.

Assange is technically safe, and in asylum, as the embassy is considered Ecuadorian soil. However, the U.K. has threatened to invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 that allows the U.K. to revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy in the country.

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