To US from balcony: Stop Wiki witch hunt

To US from balcony: Stop Wiki witch hunt

To US from balcony: Stop Wiki witch hunt

Giving the thumbs up sign after speaking to the media from the balcony of the Ecuador Embassy in London, WikiLeaks’ Assange the freedom of expression is under threat. REUTERS photo

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appeared in public for the first time since he took refuge inside Ecuador’s embassy in London two months ago and called on the United States to “end its witch hunt” against the WikiLeaks organization.

Speaking from a balcony, Assange thanked supporters, especially Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa for the “courage he has shown,” in granting him asylum.

“I ask President Obama to do the right thing, the United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks,” Assange said yesterday. He also called on the U.S. to release Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial, according to The Associated Press.

The 41-year-old Australian, who sought shelter inside the Latin American nation’s mission on June 19, was on Aug. 16 granted asylum by Ecuador as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual misconduct allegations.

“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all of our societies,” Reuters quoted Assange, dressed in a maroon tie and blue shirt, as saying.

Assange in ‘fighing spirit’
“I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and in granting me political asylum,” Assange told the world media gathered outside the embassy, as he also thanked all of his supporters, Agence France-Presse reported. Assange’s appearance on the balcony was seen as an attempt to avoid arrest. Assange claims the accusations against him are politically motivated and insists that the United States wants to put him on trial for divulging state secrets.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing video of a U.S. attack in Iraq, as well as tens of thousands of classified U.S. documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain cannot detain Assange while he remains inside the embassy, but will not offer him safe passage to Ecuador.

Assange is in “fighting spirit,” his lawyer Baltasar Garzon said early yesterday. “Julian Assange has always fought for the truth and justice and has defended [human rights] and continues to do so. He demands that WikiLeaks and his own right[s] also be respected.”

The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Christine Assange, expressed confidence yesterday that her son would make it to Ecuador to continue his whistle-blowing work despite a tense diplomatic standoff over his asylum.