Latin America supports Ecuador’s asylum offer for Wikileaks chief
Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, has received support from other South American states, after calling the US to end the “witch hunt” against whistleblowers from the balcony of the London embassy of Ecuador, which has offered him asylum.
Assange urged the US to “return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on,” and commit to supporting freedom of speech, warning that otherwise journalists would “fall silent” facing fear of prosecution. He was speaking from an upper balcony in the Ecuador Embassy, where he has taken refuge to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
Latin support for Assange
The Union of South American Nations announced that it is backing Ecuador, which offered Assange asylum because of his fears he would be extradited from Sweden to the US to face charges over the release of sensitive US documents by Wikileaks. Assange publicly thanked Ecuador and other South American countries for their support.
Assange has been at Ecuador’s London embassy since June, having skipped bail to hide there. He was arrested in 2010. The arrest followed the largest leak of classified documents in US history, allegedly obtained by military analyst Bradley Manning and released to the public by WikiLeaks.
Assange called for the release of Manning, and also criticised the prison sentence given to the Pussy Riot group in Russia for a protest in a Moscow cathedral, as another example of governments cracking down on freedom of expression.
A vocal group of supporters gathered outside the embassy, but there is still no firm evidence the US will attempt to extradite him – or any firm promise from the UK or Sweden that they would resist such an effort – leaving room for arguments amongst supporters of Assange and Wikileaks. However, some are taking the opportunity to reiterate support for those publishing secret material.
“Whistleblowers face terrible risks exposing wrong-doing in ever more dangerous conditions as governments world-wide, including in the UK, are pushing for more thorough and pervasive surveillance,” said Ed Geraghty, foreign policy spokesperson of the Pirate Party UK. “Wikileaks is bigger than one person and it must continue to operate with or without the involvement of Julian Assange.”
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