WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Aug. 19.
Police and protesters wait for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to speak to the media outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Sunday.
Speaking from the balcony of Ecuador's Embassy in London, Julian Assange Sunday urged the US to end its "witch hunt" against Wikileaks.
In his first public statement since taking refuge at the embassy two months ago, he also called for the release of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is awaiting court-martial in the U.S., accused of leaking classified documents to the Wikileaks site, the BBC reported.
Assange spoke from a balcony at the embassy and thanked Ecuador President Rafael Correa, who has granted him asylum, even though he cannot leave the embassy grounds to get to an airport without being arrested by British police.
He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.
- FOLLOW IBTIMES
"I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks," Assange said. "As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies.
"We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on? Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark."
Assange also drew renewed attention to the case of Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier in detention for more than two years who faces a court martial on charges he leaked classified information published on the WikiLeaks website.
Assange described Manning as a hero, "one of the world's foremost political prisoners" and "an example to all of us," which drew cheers from scores of supporters.
"On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial," said Assange. "The legal maximum is 120 days."
Assange did not mention the rape allegations he faces in Sweden. He did, however, mention the jailing in Russia of the feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, the Guardian reported.
"There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response," he said, even though he has had a talk show on the Kremlin-backed Russia Today channel.
Assange thanked his supporters, who have kept vigil outside the embassy.
"On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy, the police descended on this building. You came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world's eyes with you.
"Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you.
"If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching.
"So the next time that somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the Embassy of Ecuador. Remind them how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice."
Ecuador has granted political asylum to the former computer hacker who incensed the United States and its allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010.
Foreign ministers from the Union of South American Nations bloc met in Ecuador's coastal city of Guayaquil and backed Correa's government, saying diplomatic missions must be protected and condemning Britain's "threat to use force."
Speaking in Guayaquil, which also hosted a meeting on Saturday of ministers from the ALBA group of leftist-led Latin American nations that includes Venezuela and Cuba, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the government was considering asking the International Court of Justice in the Hague to adjudicate, Reuters reported.
Patino said Ecuador had a duty to protect Assange, but he indicated that there was still room for discussion.
"If talks with Britain, Sweden or the United States could lead to a clear written statement guaranteeing Mr. Assange's life and safety, it would be possible for him to go to Sweden to face trial," Patino told reporters after the meeting.
Assange spoke from a small balcony on the corner of the London embassy to keep himself safe from arrest.
Assange, an Australian, is wanted in Sweden for questioning regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault, and Britain has said he will not be granted safe passage out of his Ecuadorean embassy refuge, which enjoys diplomatic status. He says he fears Sweden would eventually hand him over to the United States where, in his view, he would face persecution and long-term imprisonment.
Ecuadorian Embassy officials told CBS News last week that they have repeatedly offered Swedish investigators opportunities to question Assange at the embassy, but those offers have been turned down.
Ex-Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who is representing Assange, met with the activist inside the embassy and told reporters that the Australian remains determined.
"I have spoken to Julian Assange, and I can tell you that he is in fighting spirit. He is thankful to the people of Ecuador and especially to President Correa for granting him asylum," said Garzon. "He has always fought for the truth and justice; he has always defended human rights and will continue to do so. He demands that WikiLeaks and his own rights also be respected."
Garzon said that Assange had "instructed his lawyers to carry out legal actions to protect the rights of WikiLeaks, Julian himself and all those who are currently being investigated" but did not offer any further explanation.
He also said that Ecuador could consider making an appeal to the International Court of Justice in the Hague in order to compel Britain to grant Assange safe passage out of the country.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader