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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid