Skip to main content

Assange speaks via satellite from London, calls for end to 'persecution'

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
September 27, 2012 -- Updated 0515 GMT (1315 HKT)
  • NEW: Julian Assange speaks from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
  • NEW: "It is time for the United States to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks," Assange says
  • Ecuador's foreign minister urges Assange be granted safe passage out of the embassy

(CNN) -- The founder of WikiLeaks delivered an impassioned appeal Wednesday for the U.S. government to end its actions against him, his website and those who support it.

"It is time for the United States to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people and to cease its persecution of our alleged sources," Julian Assange, speaking via satellite from London, told a packed conference room at the United Nations, where world leaders were attending the United Nations General Assembly.

"It is time for President Obama to do the right thing and join the forces of change -- not in fine words, but in fine deeds."

Assange was speaking from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June.

The event was held by the Mission of Ecuador on U.N. grounds, but was not officially sponsored by the world body.

Assange: stop 'witch hunt' on WikiLeaks
Is it possible for Assange to escape?
Why did Ecuador grant Assange asylum?
101: WikiLeaks revealed

For much of 2011 until June, Assange had been under house arrest in Britain while he filed appeals against his extradition from Britain to Sweden. Sweden has said it wants to question Assange on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman there.

Assange has not been charged with a crime.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said he planned to meet Thursday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in an attempt to persuade him to allow Assange to leave the embassy without facing the possibility of arrest.

"We hope for a positive dialogue seeking a solution to this problem," Patino said. "There are many ways to assure a solution that will protect his life and human rights."

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in August, but he faces arrest in Britain if he leaves its embassy. The embassy is a sovereign space that authorities from other countries cannot encroach. In August a London policeman was photographed carrying an arrest plan for Assange.

See a timeline of Assange's extradition battle

Assange has denied the sex allegations, describing them as a ruse to get him to Sweden, which would then extradite him to the United States.

Several U.S. officials have asserted that Assange violated the law by publishing in 2010 and 2011 a trove of classified war documents and diplomatic cables.

Patino said Swedish and British authorities have refused to accept his offer to allow Assange to be questioned in the embassy and refused to guarantee that he would not be extradited to a third country if he were to leave the embassy.

"U.S. law would likely grant someone in Mr. Assange's position asylum," said Baher Azmy, legal director of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing him.

"But, of course, he is Julian Assange, and that means, in the United States, he is public enemy number one and a so-called enemy of the state and is therefore unlikely to get a fair trial -- even for conduct that is and should be protected by the United States Constitution."

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, Azmy had cited the treatment of Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks. "Based on how Bradley Manning has been treated, we have every reason to be concerned that Assange would be subject to brutal and inhumane treatment."

Manning faces numerous charges in a court-martial that could result in life in prison. In March, the U.N. special rapporteur issued a report finding that Manning may have been treated inhumanely.

As of Wednesday, Assange said, Manning had been detained without trial for 856 days -- more than seven times the legal maximum of 120 days.

The first WikiLeaks leak, published in late summer 2010, was called the "Afghan War Diary."

The New York Times' take on what those documents conveyed is summed up in its headline: "View is bleaker than official portrayal of war in Afghanistan."

The Guardian headlined that "the leak exposes real war," and reported, "US intelligence records reveal civilian killings, 'friendly fire' deaths and shadowy special forces."

Part of complete coverage on
November 10, 2011 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
From "Climategate" to leaked diplomatic cables, CNN takes an inside look at the WikiLeaks organization.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
A detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on sexual assault allegations should remain in place, a Swedish judge ruled.
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
A U.S. soldier imprisoned for leaking documents to WikiLeaks broke her silence in a fiery editorial accusing the United States of lying about Iraq.
March 10, 2014 -- Updated 0044 GMT (0844 HKT)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
January 3, 2014 -- Updated 0058 GMT (0858 HKT)
There have been other leaks before Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.
July 31, 2013 -- Updated 0600 GMT (1400 HKT)
A military judge acquitted Army Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy, but convicted him of violations of the Espionage Act for turning over a trove of classified data to the website WikiLeaks.
July 31, 2013 -- Updated 0050 GMT (0850 HKT)
Bradley Manning is naturally adept at computers, smart and opinionated, even brash, according to those who say they know him.
June 23, 2013 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
assange snowden
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange urged the world to "stand with" Edward Snowden, the man who admitted leaking top-secret details about U.S. surveillance programs.
June 11, 2013 -- Updated 1146 GMT (1946 HKT)
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, knows something about secrets and what happens when they're exposed.
June 3, 2013 -- Updated 2311 GMT (0711 HKT)
Prosecutors say a 25-year-old Army private accused of aiding the nation's enemies through the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history "craved" notoriety.
August 16, 2012 -- Updated 1407 GMT (2207 HKT)
From the issuing of an arrest warrant, to a decision on Assange's asylum, see how the story has developed.
June 30, 2012 -- Updated 1949 GMT (0349 HKT)
Julian Assange is waiting to hear if Ecuador will grant him asylum. He's dangling from a cliff, for sure. Hanging by a pinky next to him -- WikiLeaks.
October 29, 2012 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Holed up in Ecuador's Embassy in London, Julian Assange talks at length about his life and motivations.
August 20, 2012 -- Updated 0020 GMT (0820 HKT)
Assange's move is dramatic, but he's not the first person to seek an escape route through a diplomatic mission. Here are some key precedents.
May 30, 2012 -- Updated 0931 GMT (1731 HKT)
Assange is a self-appointed champion of free speech and the founder of a web operation that has greatly antagonized the U.S. government.
July 6, 2012 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
WikiLeaks said it has begun publishing some 2.4 million e-mails from Syrian politicians, government ministries and companies dating back to 2006.