Julian Assange Calls on U.S. to End WikiLeaks 'Witch Hunt'

7:36 AM PST 08/19/2012 by Georg Szalai
Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Speaking from Ecuador's embassy in London days after the country had granted him asylum, he also commented on the prison sentence against Russian band Pussy Riot.



LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday continued to make headlines and draw media coverage as he made a statement from Ecuador's embassy here that criticized the U.S.



In his first public appearance in two months, Assange, wearing a blue shirt and red tie, spoke at around 2:30pm local time from a balcony of the embassy, with much international media in attendance. Some news networks showed the appearance live.



"The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks" and whistleblowers, he said. "There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization - be it WikiLeaks or the New York Times."



Assange also said: "As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all of our societies."



He also commented briefly on the prison sentence against female Russian punk band Pussy Riot. "There is unity in the oppression," Assange said. "There must be absolute unity and determination in the response."

The three band members on Friday were sentenced to two years in jail for reciting a "punk prayer" criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin during a performance at a cathedral earlier in the year. 



Ecuador had on Thursday officially granted him political asylum, drawing criticism from the U.K., Sweden and the U.S. 

Assange thanked the country and its president on Sunday, and he thanked his supporters, saying "thank you for your resolve, for your generosity of spirit."



Assange had walked into Ecuador's embassy here earlier this summer to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault, but London police signaled they wouldn't let him walk free.

Following reports that Britain may even consider entering the embassy to get to Assange, Ecuador on Thursday said "such a threat [by the U.K.] is improper of a democratic and civilized country."



Assange said Sunday that Wednesday night's threat brought out supporters to the embassy "to watch over it." He added: "If the U.K. did not throw away the terms of the Vienna convention it was, because the world was watching and the world was watching because you were watching."

Assange and his supporters have suggested that an extradition to Sweden could eventually see Assange end up in the U.S. They fear that the U.S. is looking to prosecute him for espionage and conspiracy.



WikiLeaks had announced late in the week that Assange would speak outside the Ecuadorian embassy here, but not said where exactly. 

The British Foreign Office had said that the embassy building’s common areas, such as its staircases, were considered British territory. 
 


Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com


Twitter: @georgszalai

 

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