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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs