News24

Assange mocks Obama over free speech

2012-09-27 07:32

New York - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking via a choppy video feed from his virtual house arrest in London, lashed out at US President Barack Obama on Wednesday for supporting freedom of speech in the Middle East while simultaneously "persecuting" his organisation for leaking diplomatic cables.

Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy since June to avoid extradition, made the comments at a packed event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Assange mocked Obama for defending free speech in the Arab world in an address to the United Nations on Tuesday, pointing to his own experience as evidence that Obama has "done more to criminalise free speech than any other US president".

"It must have come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes [during the Arab Spring] to hear that the US supported change in the Middle East," Assange said.

"It's time for President Obama to keep his word ... and for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks," he said.

Assange's combative comments, plus statements made by Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and his other allies at the event, suggested no solution is in sight to the diplomatic standoff surrounding the 41-year-old Australian.

Seeking guarantees

British authorities have surrounded the Ecuadorean Embassy and said if Assange sets foot outside, they will arrest him and extradite him to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations.

Assange's lawyers and Ecuador's government fear that could lead in turn to extradition to the United States, where they say he would face "inhumane" prison conditions and even the death penalty.

Assange, who looked to be in good health as he sat at a desk in front of a bookshelf and addressed the 150 or so people at the event, said Britain and Sweden have so far refused to provide guarantees he would not be extradited to the United States.

US and European government sources have countered that the United States has issued no criminal charges or launched any attempts to extradite Assange.

Patino is scheduled to meet with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in New York on Thursday to discuss Assange, and he said there are "multiple paths" that could lead out of the standoff. Yet, in an interview following the UN event, Patino made clear that Ecuador is not willing to cede much ground.

"The ball's in their court right now," Patino said.

Deterioration

Patino held in his hands a mimeographed copy of an 1880 agreement signed between Britain and Ecuador, which he said prohibits extradition in cases such as Assange's. He said he would show the document to Hague on Thursday.

Patino rigorously defended Ecuador's decision to grant political asylum to Assange, expressing disbelief that Britain is "determined" to arrest the former computer hacker even though he said there are no criminal charges against him. "This means you have reason to suspect he's being persecuted," Patino said.

He said Assange is in relatively good spirits but expressed concern his physical and psychological condition could deteriorate.

"I think of myself, how I'd react in that situation, not being able to go outside, being isolated," Patino said. "It's practically like being jailed."


- Click here to read the full transcript of Julian Assange's Address to the UN.

Comments
  • Mark - 2012-09-27 08:02

    The USA used to be the land of the free but now is fast becoming the land of the enslaved.

      ludlowdj - 2012-09-27 12:45

      its is already enslaved, homeland security and the S.1867 legislation have already seen to that, just because a slave doesn't know he is a slave doesn't make him any less a slave.

      tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-09-27 15:13

      None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free -

  • mike.dufham.7 - 2012-09-27 08:30

    Barrack Osama is the devil incarnate

  • customdesign - 2012-09-27 08:33

    Seems like Obama doesn't like egg on his face

  • anthonie.vanbosch - 2012-09-27 09:00

    Bad Governments and Politicians will be judged by God. They can fool you and me but that is all they can do on earth. After this life, they will have no protection but face judgment. There will be no place for them to hide. No golden handshakes and no re-appointments and no special protection. Life is short, embrace the truth and show your disgust to the word "spin". Kindly do not say OMG as this offends me and others. Please.

  • miquette.caalsen - 2012-09-27 09:12

    Hang on ... Assange is the guy that didn't want to give a statement to the Swedish police regarding the allegations against him because he was afraid it would end up in the media ... Hmmm ... So for as far as his statement to the Swedish police is concerned, his right to privacy and secrecy must be protected, but as far as PERSONAL diplomatic cables between embassies there is no reason for privacy and secrecy. And this dude calls OBAMA a hypocrite?!?

  • jacobus.vandermerwe.9 - 2012-09-27 09:24

    Free speach is a fundamental part of democracy. If you are not allowed to question your government you are living in a dictatorship... Ideally if a government has no secrets, and is still being voted for, then democracy has succeeded and the right people are running the country. In order to move towards this 'ideal' you have to be able to use your freedom of speech to publish files that shows the government in a bad light. The only thing you cannot be allowed to do is spread lies and Assange has not crossed this barrier. Plato said: "Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty." The USA govenment are fast moving towards enslaving their own people by keeping the government's actions secret, because they know their public would not approve of the government's actions

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