End witch-hunt and let us go free, Assange tells US


WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has demanded that the US cease its attack on him and his colleagues, calling on the President, Barack Obama, to “renounce its witch-hunt” and “do the right thing”.
In a passionate speech late last night from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June 19, Mr Assange called on the US to immediately “dissolve its FBI investigation”, declaring: “As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does our freedom of expression.”
“The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.”
Mr Assange attacked the US for forcing Bradley Manning, the former US soldier accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, to “endure months in of tortuous detention”.
“He must be released,” he said.
In the 10-minute address, the flush-faced 41-year-old thanked the government of Ecuador for its offer of asylum and the governments of other South American nations for their support.
He apologised to his loved ones. “To my family and my children, who have been without their father, forgive me. We will be reunited soon,” he said.
Following a European arrest warrant issued for Assange in relation to allegations in Sweden of rape and sexual assault, and a failed appeal in Britain against extradition to Sweden, Mr Assange broke his bail conditions on June 19 to enter the embassy,requesting political asylum on the grounds that he was being persecuted. Britain declared that Mr Assange faced arrest should he step onto the embassy’s front steps.
Hundreds of supporters waited for hours in drizzling rain for the balcony address. Before Mr Assange appeared, the writer Tariq Ali and others read messages of support from film director Ken Loach, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Australian journalist John Pilger. His supporters were joined by scores of police, including a ring of officers surrounding the low balcony.
Earlier, his legal adviser, Baltasar Garzon, said Mr Assange had “instructed his lawyers to carry out legal action” protecting “the rights of WikiLeaks [and] Julian himself”.
Mr Garzon did not give specific details of the action but said it would extend to “all those currently being investigated”.
A spokesman for Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, told the media Mr Assange might give himself up to Sweden, if Sweden promised it would not extradite him to the US.
It is claimed he could face political persecution or even the death penalty if charged in the US over the publication of confidential diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website.
It was revealed yesterday that the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, over-rode the advice of his own lawyers when Britain sent a letter to the Ecuadorean government in which the Foreign Office effectively warned it had the power to enter the embassy to arrest Mr Assange.First published in The Sydney Morning Herald.