Julian Assange makes his first public appearance in two months, ever since he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder was granted political asylum on Thursday -- a decision that ignited a wave of international responses, with the UK and Sweden opposing the verdict and Latin American countries strongly supporting Ecuador's move.
Assange called upon the U.S. to end its 'witch hunt' on wikileaks, and to 'end the war on whistleblowers.'
A full transcript of his remarks follows:
“I am here today because I cannot be there with you today. But thank you for coming. Thank you for your resolve and 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 UK 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 Patino, who upheld the Ecuadorian constitution and its notion of universal rights in their consideration of my asylum. And to the Ecuadorian 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 have shown me the 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 DC to address this very situation.
“And so, I am grateful to those people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, 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, 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-hunts 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 organisation; be it Wikileaks, or be it the New York Times.
“The US administration’s war on whistleblowers must end.
“Thomas Drake, William Binney and John Kirakou 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.
“And if Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to us all 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 Centre, was sentenced to three years in prison for a tweet. On Friday, a Russian band were 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.