Assange urges end to US 'witch hunt' of Wikileaks
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has urged the US to end its "witch hunt" of his organisation and described threats of prosecution of whistleblowers as "foolish".
Mr Assange, making a televised statement from the Ecuadorian embassy in central London where he has taken asylum to avoid deportation to Sweden, said Ecuador has taken "a courageous stand for justice".
He said the United States risked shunting the world into an era of journalistic oppression.
"As Wikileaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all of our societies," Mr Assange said. "I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against Wikileaks."
Britain says it will not allow the anti-secrecy campaigner to travel to South America because it is obliged to extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
To allow Mr Assange to avoid arrest by stepping outside the embassy, a balcony door on an upper floor was removed, leading up to his first public appearance since seeking refuge in the diplomatic mission two months ago.
Speaking behind the condor of the Ecuadorean coat of arms on the white balcony railing of the embassy, Mr Assange thanked president Rafael Correa and Ecuador's diplomats, whom he praised for standing up against oppression.
"The sun came up on a different world and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice," Mr Assange said from the balcony.
Mr Assange's attempt to escape extradition has touched off a diplomatic tussle between Britain and Ecuador, which accused London of threatening to raid its embassy and casting the dispute as an arrogant European power treating a Latin American nation like a colony.
Ecuador has cast its dispute with Britain over asylum for Mr Assange as a struggle against colonialism, drawing growing support from its neighbours in the international diplomatic saga.
Incensed by London's threat to break into the Ecuadorean Embassy, Mr Correa's government has accused Britain of bullying and has formally granted Mr Assange asylum.
Trying to present the affair as an international David versus Goliath battle, Ecuador was hosting this weekend foreign ministers from both the ALBA group of leftist-led Latin American nations and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
"They're out of touch. Who do they think they're dealing with? Can't they see that this is a dignified and sovereign government which will not kneel down before anyone?" Mr Correa said in his weekly address last night.
"What a mentality, eh? They have not realized that Latin America is free and sovereign and that we'll not put up with meddling, colonialism of any kind, at least in this country, small, but with a big heart."