News / Europe

    Assange Calls for US to End 'Witch-Hunt'

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange steps onto the balcony before speaking to the media outside the Ecuador embassy in west London, August 19, 2012.
    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange steps onto the balcony before speaking to the media outside the Ecuador embassy in west London, August 19, 2012.
    Al Pessin
    LONDON — WikiLeaks founder and wanted fugitive Julian Assange made a defiant statement from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Sunday, railing against the United States and other countries he says are persecuting people who exercise their right to free speech. But he did not give any indication of his own plans, as he can not leave the embassy or British police will arrest him.

    Assange stood in the doorway of a small balcony to address dozens of supporters and many more reporters and police officers outside. He thanked the supporters, and the government of Ecuador, which has granted him political asylum and refuge in its embassy.

    He made no mention of the sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden, for which Britain has agreed to extradite him to face prosecutors' questions. That decision two months ago prompted him to flee into the embassy.

    South American foreign ministers are backing Ecuador and its decision to grant asylum to embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its London embassy.
     
    The ministers of the 12 countries forming the Union of South American Nations issued a statement Sunday expressing solidarity with Ecuador.  The ministers reaffirmed the rights of nations to grant asylum without facing threats from other countries.
    But Assange indicated that he believes his legal problems are related to his work as the founder of WikiLeaks, a website which has published thousands of secret U.S. government documents. And he used the spotlight of media attention to make a series of demands.

    “The United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks," he said. "The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.”

    He described the WikiLeaks staff as journalists who are “shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.” He also called for the release of U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning, who is charged with leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks.

    Leaking the documents is a crime, but the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of freedom of the press protects journalists and publishers from prosecution.

    Assange appeared in a blue shirt and red tie, with his trademark shock of white hair closely trimmed. The tone and content of his statement surprised some observers because under the terms of his asylum in Ecuador he is not allowed to make political statements.

    Earlier, his new legal adviser, controversial former Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon, emerged from the embassy and told reporters Assange has ordered his lawyer to take action to protect his rights. But Garzon did not provide specifics. He described Assange as being in a “fighting spirit.”

    Assange says he is innocent of the sexual allegations in Sweden, and has offered to be questioned by the Swedish prosecutor here in Britain. But Assange and his supporters are concerned that he could be extradited from Sweden to the United States more easily than from Britain. Still, under European law, he could not be sent from Sweden to the United States without British approval.

    Assange has not been charged with any crime in the United States and there is no request to extradite him.

    He continues to be essentially stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy. If he leaves the protected diplomatic space, British police will arrest him. Britain has threatened to send police inside if the embassy engages in activity that violates its diplomatic status. But officials have indicated that no imminent move is planned.  Still, the threat has caused an uproar, and Latin American countries are rallying to Ecuador's defense with a foreign ministers' meeting set for this week.

    You May Like

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Will New Russian Force Be 'Putin’s Personal Army'?

    With broad powers to control riots, suppress dissent, National Guard may be aimed at sending a message to West as much as keeping peace at home

    Foreign Media in Pyongyang Barred From North Korean Party Congress

    Hundreds of international journalists invited to cover historic party meeting barred from entering actual event

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 20, 2012 12:57 PM
    All the noise about America and witch hunting is diversionary. If Julian Assange is innocent, why has he been on the run? Why has he refused to go to Sweden to answer the court summons for sexual assault? Why does he wait to raise diplomatic dust for what he claims he's not done? At the moment he's a fugitive and Ecuador - from the lawless bloc - is a collaborator in his crime. Surely his dexterity in pitting head against each other and taking advantage of fragile diplomatic peace between power blocks has reached its wits end. He either hands himself in or be picked like a straying duck.
    In Response

    by: R.J.H. from: Atlanta, GA
    August 21, 2012 6:23 PM
    I'm sure there's no chance that the U.S. will demand that he be extradited from Sweden to face "espionage" charges, and possibly the death penalty. No chance at all.

    There have been offers to have him return to face the sexual misconduct charges if Sweden agrees to refuse extradition requests from the United States in regards to WikiLeaks and related issues, but strangely... Sweden has refused. Nothing fishy there, right?
    In Response

    by: AlecWest from: Vader, WA, USA
    August 20, 2012 4:18 PM
    So you think it's "justice" to arrest a man in July 2010 and not give him his first court hearing until February 2012? That's what the U.S. has done to Bradley Manning, one of Assange's WikiLeaks sources. What "justice" do you think the U.S. has in store for Assange? The reason he hasn't gone back to Sweden is because he knows the charges are trumped up for the SOLE PURPOSE of extraditing him. In Bradley Manning's case, the prosecutor has promised not to invoke the death penalty. The same promise has not been made to Assange.

    by: Rebin
    August 19, 2012 11:40 PM
    He should be extradited to Sweden. According to everyone's measuring Sweden is one of the most democratic countries in the world and has an absolutely independent judicial system.

    by: kamil
    August 19, 2012 4:10 PM
    Assange also spoke on behave of pussy riot. it's striking how voice on behave of pussy riot in the west is strong and clear and its understandable only blind can't see travesty in accusations of hooliganism and religious hatred when it was clear and unambiguous political stance. why in this case voices so muted? manning is real hero is standing lonely against oppressive machinery of the state in search for truth. isn't it the same travesty when he is accused of helping enemies. only united world, without borders could cope with predicaments like this.
    In Response

    by: bluenorther from: Latvia
    August 22, 2012 11:58 AM
    Assange hates the USA so much, he is ready to make friends with the communist countries like Russia, Ecuador, Venezuela, to name a few.He is not a good and honest man needing protection.

    by: bill reid from: tucson, az
    August 19, 2012 12:25 PM
    The Brits had no problem stopping Pinochet from being extradited when they were harboring him.He was responsible for thousands of innocent civilian deaths in Chile but was a hack for the colonialist powers that sheltered him.

    Manning and Assange are victims of the warmongering neocons in America and are only being persecuted for showing the duplicity of the powerful and the evils of war.

    Kudos to Equador for the courage to resist the powerful.

    by: Mskitty from: US
    August 19, 2012 12:19 PM
    All politicians claim they are for transparency, which is true unless it exposes their own conflicts of interest or illegal behavior.

    by: AlecWest from: Vader, WA, USA
    August 19, 2012 11:47 AM
    This entire business reeks of ineptitude. First, the BBC says that both Swedish women told the press that, at first, sex with Assange WAS consensual - that only "later" did it become nonconsensual. Possible? Sure. Likely? I'd sure like to see their bank accounts at the moment they said it "became" nonconsensual. In short, I sincerely believe that these Swedish charges were merely trumped up to discredit Assange. Why? Because Sweden has tough laws that protect whistleblowers (which is why he was in Sweden in the first place) and this type of charge is about the only type of charge that would override those concerns.

    Secondly, Assange didn't CREATE the memos he published. They were real. And the responsibilities to protect those memos from public scrutiny belong to the countries where they came from, not to Assange. Never forget that this is an attempt to "kill the messenger" of bad news by the "source" of that bad news.

    Journalists publish embarrassing memos and discuss topics that embarrass politicians and governments all the time. When those journalists have powerful backing (ie., Washington Post during Watergate), they get left alone. Only when journalists are seen as vulnerable (Assange) are they gone after.
    In Response

    by: Rob Swift from: United Kingdom
    August 20, 2012 4:05 PM
    British Justice is the best that money can buy.
    In Response

    by: AlecWest from: Vader, WA, USA
    August 20, 2012 3:59 PM
    Godwin -- I believe the charges against him were trumped up for a reason - to prevent him from being protected under Swedish law which, without the charges, would have protected him. Justice is different all around the world. And the U.S., contrary to popular belief, is not a haven for justice. One of Assange's WikiLeaks sources was a man named Bradley Manning. He was arrested in July of 2010 and didn't have his first hearing until February 2012. And after the hearing, he went back to jail - with a trial supposedly scheduled for next month. We'll see. Do you think Assange is going to be treated with "better" justice than Manning?

    BTW, while the prosecutor has promised that Manning would not be subject to the death penalty, the same promise has not been made to Assange. His avoidance of this "justice" doesn't prove him guilty - it proves him smart.
    In Response

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    August 20, 2012 1:12 PM
    What makes a journalist strong or weak? Assange should get himself a good lawyer and stand to defend himself in a democracy like USA. He's not asked to go defend himself in Nigeria (Africa) where justice is sold and bought on of business card (complementary card), not in Arab Middle East where justice is based on whether you're moslem or not, or in Iran where justice is a function of whether you support the govt otherwise you'd be branded western spy. USA or Sweden, Assange is assured of fair hearing, unless you're saying too that the democracies are not democracies any more. Let him come off this asylum and stand the trial to prove his innocence. Otherwise his actions prove him guilty as charged.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora