Wikileaks Founder Attacks Obama, Takes Credit for Arab Spring in TV, Web Appearance
LONDON - Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has accused U.S. President Barack Obama of trying to take credit for the uprising in the Middle East that has become known as the Arab Spring, arguing that his group in fact helped to trigger it.
In comments carried by Russian TV network RT on TV and online late Wednesday U.S. time, Assange looked to address attendees of the United Nations general assembly at the U.N.'s New York headquarters where the comments were shown in a conference room.
RT said it filmed Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up after getting asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault charges, and transmitted his comments live to the United Nations headquarters.
His comments were part of an event entitled "Strengthening the International Human Rights: The Diplomatic Asylum," which discussed the topic of diplomatic asylum from a legal and a human rights perspective. Other speakers included Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino and Baher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The appearance came before a Thursday meeting between the foreign ministers of Ecuador and Britain, in which they were expected to discuss Ecuador's recent decision to grant Assange political asylum. Thursday also marks Assange's 100th day in the embassy. Ecuador has been looking to negotiate a deal that would take him to Sweden under certain guarantees, including a promise that he wouldn't be further extradited to the U.S.
RT said it broadcast the comments in English and Spanish and also carried them on its YouTube channel.
In an apparent attempt to get more attention, the Russian network had announced the event with this headline: "RT arranges live transmission of Assange speech to the United Nations." The Wikileaks founder "will address the 67th United Nations General Assembly," it claimed.
But a U.N. spokeswoman said the debate, in which Assange participated via live video feed, was held in a conference room of the U.N. building.
Assange accused Obama of looking to exploit the Arab Spring for his political benefit, the Guardian reported.
Patino accused the British government of violating Assange's human rights, saying he could be stuck in the embassy in London for 10 years, according to the Guardian.
The Wikileaks founder argued that it was "audacious" for the U.S. to "take credit for the last two years of progress" in the Middle East, arguing it was "disrespect to the dead to claim that the United States supported the forces of change," the paper said.
Instead, he claimed that Wikileaks' publication of classified U.S. diplomatic documents "went on to help trigger the Arab spring."