In his first public appearance since he took refuge two months ago inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, Julian Assange calls for President Obama to end his war on whistleblowers. “The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters,” Assange says. “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.” Assange spoke from a windowsill near a small balcony on the second floor of the Ecuadorean embassy as dozens of police officers looked on. He carefully did not step onto the balcony, which is considered outside the legal boundary of the embassy. The diplomatic standoff between Ecuador and Britain continues this week after Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador, but U.K. authorities say they will arrest Assange and extradite him to Sweden. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s shows with the words of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On Sunday, he made his first public appearance since he took refuge two months ago inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, just days after he was granted asylum. Assange is attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime accusations, because he fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States to face charges over the leaking of secret U.S. military and diplomatic files. Julian Assange spoke from a windowsill on a small balcony on the second floor of the Ecuadorean embassy, careful not to step onto the balcony, which is considered outside the legal boundary of the embassy. Dozens of police officers looked on. British authorities have threatened to raid the embassy and are refusing to allow Julian Assange safe passage out of the country to Ecuador. In his nine-minute address, Julian Assange called on President Obama to abandon what he described as a, quote, “war on whistleblowers.”
JULIAN ASSANGE: I am here today because I cannot be there with you today. But thank you for coming. Thank you for your resolve, your generosity of spirit. On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy and 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, after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses. And that is because of you. If the U.K. 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 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 America nation took a stand for justice.
And so, to those brave people. I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and in granting me political asylum. And I also thank the government and, in particular, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who upheld the Ecuadorean constitution and its notion of universal citizenship in their consideration of my asylum, and to the Ecuadorean people for supporting and defending this constitution. And I also have a debt of gratitude to the staff of this embassy, whose families live in London and who are showing me hospitality and kindness despite the threats we all received.
This Friday, there will be an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of Latin America in Washington, D.C., to address this very situation. And so, I am grateful to those people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and to all other Latin American countries who have come out to defend the right to asylum; and to the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia who have supported me in strength, even when their governments have not; and to those wiser heads in government who are still fighting for justice—your day will come; to the staff, supporters and sources of WikiLeaks, whose courage and commitment and loyalty has seen no equal. To my family and to my children, who have been denied their father, forgive me, we will be reunited soon.
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 values, 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?
I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. 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. There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization, be it WikiLeaks or be it the New York Times.
The U.S. administration’s war on whistleblowers must end. Thomas Drake, William Binney and John Kiriakou and the other heroic whistleblowers must—they must—be pardoned or compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record. And to the Army private who remains in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who was found by the United Nations to have endured months of torturous detention in Quantico, Virginia, and who has yet, after two years in prison, to see a trial: he must be released. Bradley Manning must be released. If Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to all of us and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners. Bradley Manning must be released. On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days.
On Thursday, my friend Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, was sentenced to three years in prison for a tweet. On Friday, a Russian band was sentenced to two years in jail for a political performance. There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, speaking to hundreds of supporters and to the media from a windowsill on a small balcony on the second floor of the Ecuadorean embassy in London Sunday. He was careful not to step onto the actual balcony, which is considered outside the legal boundary of the embassy. He stood within the windowsill.
When we come back, we hear from Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, former British ambassador Craig Murray and writer Tariq Ali. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.