WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called on the United States to move from words to actions, and put an end to its persecution of WikiLeaks, its people and its sources. He made the statement during an address to a panel of UN delegates.
Addressing the representatives of the United Nations' member countries, the WikiLeaks founder spoke of the difference between words and actions, praising US President Barack Obama for his words.
"We commend and agree with the words that peace can be achieved… But the time for words has run out. It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, our people and our sources."
Assange was highly critical of US involvement in the Arab Spring, denouncing Obama as audacious for exploiting it. He added that it is "disrespectful of the dead" to claim that the US has supported forces of change.
"Was it not audacious for the US President to say that his country supported the forces of change in the Arab Spring? Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010, and Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could be re-elected," Assange told the panel.
"The world knew after reading WikiLeaks that Ben Ali and his government had for long years enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the US, in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes. So it must come as a surprise to the Tunisians that the US supported the forces of change in their country, and it must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American tear gas out of their eyes, that the US administration supported change in Egypt"
Julian Assange also spoke at length about Bradley Manning, the US private accused of supplying WikiLeaks with hundreds of sensitive diplomatic and military cables. Assange accused the US government of detaining Manning without charge and mistreating him, even attempting to offer him a deal in exchange for Manning's testimony against Assange. The WikiLeaks founder told the UN panel that Bradley Manning, accused of 'death penalty crimes', was "degraded, abused and psychologically tortured."
He added that the FBI had produced 42,135 pages of WikiLeaks-related activity, and less that 8,000 concern Bradley Manning, reiterating his belief that the US private is being senselessly detained.
Julian Assange made his address from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he took shelter in June after losing a court battle to avoid extradition to Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder fears that Sweden, which wants him for questioning over allegations of sexual assault, will extradite him to the US for his role in leaking thousands of secret diplomatic and military cables.
The British Foreign Office maintains that it has a binding obligation to arrest Assange once he leaves the embassy grounds. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, meanwhile, said that allowing Assange to be transferred to the country’s embassy in Sweden would be an acceptable compromise for all parties involved, as he would “remain under our protection while also satisfying the demands of the Swedish justice system.”
The Ecuador FM also said that Assange's right to freedom must be respected.
"I don’t know any case in history where diplomatic asylum did not end in freedom for the person. I hope this will not be an exception in history. Every country must respect the right of the country granting asylum and the person who was granted it."
Julian Assange told journalists present at the UN GA panel that "both the UK and Sweden have refused to offer guarantees" that he would not be extradited to the US, where both he and WikiLeaks have been declared 'enemies of the state' by the milatary, putting them in the same legal category as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The UK and Sweden have remained silent on the possibility of a compromise, though both publicly vowed that Assange should not face special treatment, whether better or worse than normal, under their legal systems.
The full transcript of Julian Assange’s address to the UN is here.
Fairfax Newspapers: The US military officially designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as ‘enemies of the United States’ through declassified US Air Force counterintelligence documents. In light of these reports, do you believe this vindicates your decision to seek asylum in Ecuador, and what do you think this says – the statements made by the Australian and American governments regarding this issue?
Julian Assange: Those documents are now in full on the WikiLeaks website, just released tonight. They formed a part of the submission that we made to Ecuador. We had those documents for some months and of course were very concerned about them, but it was necessary to conduct, because of the sensitivities of some of the people involved in that investigation, to prevent their release until more recently. But yes, I encourage everyone to read those. It is an unusual position that I am in and the organization is in, and yes, it is difficult sometimes.
But it is also completely absurd. I mean, these claims against us are absurd. For example, that the US military should designate me and / or WikiLeaks as ‘the enemy’ in its formal investigation – investigation which carries a death penalty offense – into a person who was alleged to have come to my extradition hearing. And in the same document, it speaks about the victim being that of society, when there is no allegation that any documents have been released or published by us.
So I think that goes to the… to really quite sort of absurdist, neo-McCarthyist fervor that exists with some of these government departments in the US. I am hopeful that the White House over time is starting to shed that, but enormous wheels have been set in motion, as I described before, with over a dozen different US intelligence and investigative organizations churning through this, and it’s a very difficult process to stop once it starts. Even once everyone sees that it is completely absurd and counter to the values that the US should be trying to present to the world.
David Miller of Bloomberg News: If Sweden can guarantee that you won’t be extradited to the US, are you willing to give yourself up to the police?
JA: So, I understand that there was a question on the guarantees that had been asked of Sweden. Thus far, both the UK and Sweden have refused to give any guarantee in any measure at all. And the US and my home country Australia have even refused to assist in asking them, rather unfortunately. These countries are part of a strong intelligence and military alliance. It’s just part of the reality of dealing with them – that they do not like to put any roadblocks in front of the US, and I think it will be quite a hard battle to do that. I think it would be correct and right that those countries do so. But the state-to-state negotiations are of course a matter for Ecuador, which I and my legal team of course make representations [with]. Ultimately it’s a matter between states.
I’m about to lose satellite time. I understand that Kristinn Hrafnsson, a handsome looking gentleman with white hair, is up the front there somewhere. He is the WikiLeaks spokesperson and he can answer questions in relation to me and the organization.