WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared on the first-floor balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy on Sunday where he asked the United States to end its “witch-hunt” against the whistle-blowing organization.
“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies. I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks,” Assange said during a 10 minute speech.
“Will it [the US] 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? The US must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The US must pledge before the world that it will not prosecute journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.”
The WikiLeaks founder also confirmed that British law enforcement officials had come close to storming the embassy last Wednesday after sending a letter threatening to do so.
“Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape… [The only reason the UK] did not throw away the Vienna convention the other night [was because] the world is watching.”
In addition, Assange called on the US to end its wide-ranging war against whistleblowers, specifically asking for Pfc. Bradley Manning to be released from the brig where he is awaiting a full court-martial for downloading classified documents that ultimately ended up on WikiLeaks.
“On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial… The legal maximum is 120 days,” he added.
Julian Assange was granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government on August 16. The WikiLeaks founder first entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden – where he faces charges of sexual assault – failed. Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer and detention in the United States.
Indeed, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino recently said his country believes Assange faces a genuine threat of political persecution and possible extradition to the United States where the WikiLeaks founder would be denied a fair trial.
“It is not impossible that he would be treated in a cruel manner, condemned to life in prison, or even the death penalty,” Patino recently told journalists in Quito. “Ecuador is convinced that his procedural rights have been violated.”
Patino also said he hoped Britain would allow Assange to leave the embassy in London for Ecuador, a request the UK continues to rebuff. As such, Assange will likely remain in the Ecuadorian embassy for the foreseeable future.
Tensions between the two countries have increased significantly over the issue of Assange’s extradition request, with Bristish authorities threatening to raid the embassy if the WikiLeaks founder wasn’t immediately handed over to officials.
“Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,” Patino said last Wednesday. “We are not a British colony.”