Assange berates United States from Ecuador Embassy balcony
By Alessandra Prentice and Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange berated the United States on Sunday from the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy where he has sought refuge from arrest, demanding President Barack Obama end what he called a witch-hunt against his whistle-blowing website.
Speaking from within the London mission to avoid being detained by British police who want to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over rape allegations, Assange said the United States was fighting a war against outlets like WikiLeaks.
Comparing himself to Russian punk band Pussy Riot and the New York Times newspaper as also deserving protection from oppression, Assange said the United States risked dragging the world into a dangerous era in which journalists would fall silent. He did not mention the rape allegations.
"As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all of our societies," Assange said, dressed in a maroon tie and blue shirt, and flanked by the yellow, blue and red Ecuadorean flag. Dozens of British policemen lined up on the pavement below.
"I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks," Assange said in a 10-minute speech which he ended with two thumbs up to the world's media.
Ecuador's socialist President Rafael Correa, a self-declared enemy of "corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism," granted the former computer hacker political asylum last week, deepening a diplomatic standoff with Britain and Sweden.
Foreign ministers from across South America strongly supported Correa's stance at an emergency meeting in Ecuador on Sunday, saying countries had a sovereign right to grant asylum.
Ecuador's decision marked the latest twist in a tumultuous journey for Assange since he 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, disclosures that often embarrassed Washington. Continued...