Controversial publisher holds a press conference to mark the anniversary of his residence at the embassy of Ecuador in London
The demand was made during a press conference on the eve of the two-year anniversary of his residence at the embassy of Ecuador in London. Assange said that despite being unable to leave the building, he continues to work with Wikileaks and is reasonably comfortable. He added that a case against the whistleblower website was having a “chilling effect” on free press, since it could be seen as prosecution of publishers and journalists.
The press conference was held just days after 59 international organisations signed a letter, calling on the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review to stop Swedish authorities from seeking Assange’s extradition without any charges.
The letter calls the situation “Sweden’s longest running case of pre-trial deprivation of liberty” and refers to Assange as a “political prisoner”.
Two years later, the battle rages on
Two years ago, Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador, but he can’t leave the embassy building since he would be arrested by the UK police and extradited to Sweden, where he is facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
These allegations were made more than three years ago but no official charges have been filed, leading the Assange camp to believe that they are a part of a political ploy, and Sweden would be just a short stop on the way to the US, where the Federal Grand Jury is currently preparing a criminal case against WikiLeaks.
Next Tuesday, the Wikileaks legal team is expected to file a relevant legal challenge in a Swedish court. Wikileaks is also fighting the ‘banking blockade’ imposed on the website by the US financial service providers.
Meanwhile, the British government recently admitted it has spent more than £6 million on policing the surroundings of the embassy, with officers allegedly ordered to arrest Assange on sight.
“It is against the stated principles of the United States, and I believe, values that are supported by its people, to have a four-year criminal investigation against a publisher,” said Assange. “The ongoing existence of that investigation produces a chilling effect not just in relation to Internet-based publishers, but all publishers, because all publishers will shortly be Internet-based.”
“It is not correct for Eric Holder and the DoJ [Department of Justice] to use weasel words and state they will not prosecute a reporter for reporting. Dealing with sources, protecting them, enabling them to engage in safe communication is a natural part of the national security reporting process.”
“I call on Eric Holder today to immediately drop the national security investigation, or resign.”
When asked about his living conditions, Assange replied that he regularly works with people who are being tortured or held in solitary confinement, so his situation doesn’t seem that bad.
“There are other people in more difficult circumstances. They include Chelsea Manning, who has been sentenced to 35 years in relation to alleged national security disclosures which have been published by Wikileaks.”
He also expressed full support for Edward Snowden, whose asylum application in Russia is up for a renewal in two months. It turns out that Assange actually lost his chance to get out of the embassy, by helping the whistleblower.
Last year, a special working group was due to be set up, involving three politicians from Ecuador and three from the UK, in hopes of sorting out the embassy situation. These plans were scrapped by the Secretary of State William Hague after it emerged that Assange helped the former intelligence contractor escape from Hong Kong to Moscow.
As far as the World Cup goes, Assange said he supports Ecuador, but added that he would be pleased if the hosts of the tournament win.
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