WikiLeaks slates violent US rhetoric
London - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on Tuesday for US politicians and commentators who engage in violent rhetoric to be prosecuted, after the attempted assassination of a congresswoman in Arizona.
Assange drew parallels between the rhetoric that some have blamed for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tuscon on Saturday and that directed at himself and staff working on the whistle-blowing website.
US Democrats have noted that Giffords was among a number of their party's candidates who were painted with crosshairs on a campaign map drawn up last year by possible Republican White House hopeful Sarah Palin.
Local sheriff Clarence Dupnik also highlighted "vitriolic statements" that had been made about Giffords' policies, and said inflamed rhetoric "has an impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with".
In a statement, WikiLeaks offered sympathy and condolences to Giffords, who is clinging to life after being shot in the head, and the families of the six people killed in the shooting spree in Tuscon.
It said its staff and contributors had also been subject to "unprecedented violent rhetoric" from politicians and commentators the United States following WikiLeaks' release of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables.
This included Palin, who urged the US government to hunt down Assange like the Taliban.
"No organisation anywhere in the world is a more devoted advocate of free speech than Wikileaks but when senior politicians and attention-seeking media commentators call for specific individuals or groups of people to be killed, they should be charged with incitement - to murder," Assange said.
"Those who call for an act of murder deserve as significant share of the guilt as those raising a gun to pull the trigger."
WikiLeaks had engaged in "extreme security measures" to protect its staff, he said, adding: "We call on US authorities and others to protect the rule of law by aggressively investigating these and similar incitements to kill.
"A civil nation of laws cannot have prominent members of society constantly calling for the murder and assassination of other individuals or groups."
Assange is due in court in London on Tuesday for the latest stage in his battle against his extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to quiz him about allegations of sexual assault against two women. He denies the allegations.