US denies Assange claims of 'witch-hunt'

2012-08-21 09:02

Washington - The United States on Monday denied Julian Assange's "wild assertions" that it has launched a witch-hunt for the WikiLeaks founder, who was holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition.

The Australian-born hacktivist rallied supporters on Sunday from the balcony of the embassy, accusing the United States of pursuing him after his website angered Washington by publishing a trove of sensitive diplomatic cables.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the United States had nothing to do with efforts by Britain to extradite Assange, who is wanted for questioning by Sweden on allegations of rape and molestation.

"He is making all kinds of wild assertions about us when in fact his issue with the government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he's going to face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, it has to do with charges of sexual misconduct," Nuland told reporters.

"He is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he's going to face justice in Sweden," she told reporters.

"That case has nothing to do with us. It's a matter between the UK, Sweden and now Ecuador has inserted itself," she said.

'Politically motivated'

Nuland, in an exchange with reporters, later clarified that Assange was not charged in Sweden but was wanted for questioning. Two female WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden have accused Assange of the sexual misconduct.

Assange says that the accusations are politically motivated and that he would eventually be extradited to the United States. He says the sex was consensual.

"I ask President [Barack] Obama to do the right thing - the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks," the 41-year-old Australian told about 200 supporters and hordes of journalists from the embassy balcony.

Assange has spent two months inside the embassy, which occupies a small part of a red-brick mansion block in an upscale section of London. British authorities could arrest him if he steps outside.

Nuland, in line with previous US statements, declined comment on the scope of US prosecution over WikiLeaks. A military court is trying Bradley Manning, a young soldier suspected of leaking the documents to the activist website.

Assange called for the United States to release Manning, saying he was being treated harshly in detention.

'Open to dialogue'

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Ernesto Mendez, in March said that Manning had been subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" conditions including prolonged detention. A previous State Department spokesperson, Philip J Crowley, resigned last year after criticising Manning's treatment.

WikiLeaks angered the United States by releasing tens of thousands of classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as often unflattering reports of US diplomats' views on world leaders.

Ecuador's left-leaning president, Rafael Correa, has offered asylum to Assange, citing the possibility of US prosecution.

"We have always been open to dialogue with the governments of Britain and Sweden," Correa said in an interview with ECTV public television broadcast late on Monday.

He added, however, that Britain and Sweden were maintaining an "intransigent" position.

Foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations, meeting in Ecuador's biggest city Guayaquil, expressed "solidarity" Sunday with the decision to grant asylum.

The nations also declared support for Quito over the "threat of violation of its diplomatic mission", a reference to Britain highlighting an obscure 1987 law under which its police could enter the embassy and extract Assange.

Protesters to stay

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesperson said Britain was "obliged" to carry out the extradition to Sweden after Assange exhausted all appeal options.

"It is our intention to carry out that obligation," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue talking to the Ecuadoran government and others to try to find a diplomatic solution," he said.

The spokesperson did not refer directly to the speech by Assange, who credited public support with preventing a raid on the embassy and said he heard police "swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape" on Saturday.

A handful of protesters have camped outside of Britain's consulate in New York, holding banners such as "Telling the truth is not reason."

"We plan on staying until Julian Assange gets out of the embassy," said 23-year-old activist Adam Peck.

  • antoinette.jordaan - 2012-08-21 09:15

    Why doesn't this idiot just go and face the accusations and get it over with? At the moment he seems more guilty than anything else of these charges.

      dewalds3 - 2012-08-21 09:29

      If he goes to Sweden, he might be extradited to the US (even if he is found innocent in Sweden). In the US he could be charged with treason and be given the death penalty. Bradley Manning is held captive for more than 500 days already without being charged. Please do not comment on things if you know nothing about it. Have you been to the Wikileaks site and have you had a look at the type of information that he has revealed?

      rick.kabose - 2012-08-21 10:29

      Dewald The US can charge him with espionage as he is an Australian citizen. Treason charges can only be placed on your own citizens boet

      jaco.faling - 2012-08-21 10:45

      @dewalds3, as a question, if the US wanted Assange, why haven't they put in an extradition request at UK a long time ago? I mean I'm sure some in US would like to hang him but why would they rather extradite to Sweden to again extradite to US? Does that make legal sense?

      LanfearM - 2012-08-21 12:10

      @ jaco.faling - err, they want to send him Sweden to stand trial for sexual assault, after which Sweden will probably extradite him to the US to stand trial for "cyber-terrorism", "treason" and "espionage". Yeah right, the US and others are just p*ssed off because WikiLeaks revealed what absolute bastards politicans and the world's governments are.

  • djmain1 - 2012-08-21 09:50

    The US have proven over and again they can't be trusted - what they say publiclly just doesn't gel with their actions. For them to say that they are not targeting Wikileaks is an absolute lie - just look at how they have squeezed Wikileaks funding. Do they think we are all idiots?

  • philip.vde - 2012-08-21 10:22

    It's time we learn how to stand together !! The US now looking to invade Syria !! It's all part of the big plan for them as they want to control this whole region because of the oil and they want control , Let's all stand up against the New World Order ... The American Dream ?? To rule the world !!!

      LanfearM - 2012-08-21 12:06

      Yah yah, to rule the world is the dream of any power-hungry government, religion and corporation. Nothing new. We should rather throttle the oil by producing bio-fuel and electric cars.

  • ChronicDJ - 2012-08-21 10:22

    for Antoinettes benefit :

  • Rashida Patel - 2012-08-21 10:46

    One has to be an idiot to believe the U S .......on eid day obama sends goodwishes, then,same day with his drones kill 13 parkistanis,injuring many !!

      rick.kabose - 2012-08-21 11:17

      While I agree Assange should be left alone and the US should rather focus on preventing future leaks,those killed by the drone's were militants.Stop making out like they were innocent civilians or something. Here's a link: War doesn't care for Eid or other religious holidays,just ask the Isreali's about the nice sneak attack the arabs pulled on Yom Kippur in the 70's before you get holier then thou

      LanfearM - 2012-08-21 12:08

      It is war Rashida. The last time anything ridiculously "honourable" was noted in a war was in WWI when the guys on the Western Front actually stopped killing on xmas day, played a game of football against each other, and resumed killing one another the next day. Ridiculous. Sorry, but those killed were militant insurgents, soldiers themselves, not innocent women and children and civilians [such as happens when a suicide bomber decides to strike]. Although I think the US is wrong and should just bugger off out of Afghanistan, trying to pretend that those militants are innocent is just as wrong.

  • blackpower.africaneuropean - 2012-08-21 12:06

    The Only way sweden can Interview Julian Assange is by Video Link..

  • ivan.schoultz - 2012-08-21 13:14

    EXCLUSIVE By Philip Dorling, The Sydney Morning Herald – August 18, 2012 Australian diplomats have no doubt the United States is intent on pursuing Julian Assange, Foreign Affairs and Trade Department documents obtained by the Herald show. This is at odds with comments by the (Australian) Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, who has dismissed suggestions the US plans to eventually extradite Assange on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents. The Australian embassy in Washington has been tracking a US espionage investigation targeting the WikiLeaks publisher for more than 18 months. The declassified diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information legislation, show Australia’s ambassador, the former Labor leader Kim Beazley, has made high level representations to the US government asking for advance warning of any moves to prosecute Assange.

  • dewalds3 - 2012-08-21 16:07


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