Are Julian Assange and WikiLeaks really the victims of a witch hunt?

The Australian secret-spiller addresses the world from inside his Ecuadorian embassy refuge — and blames his plight on President Obama

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, appearing on the balcony of Ecuador's embassy in west London on Aug. 19, berates the U.S. for threatening freedom of expression.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Olivia Harris)

On Sunday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made his first public appearance since seeking refuge — and subsequently scoring asylum — in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Appearing at an open window on the embassy's ground floor, Assange thanked "courageous" Ecuador, accused Britain of wanting to trample the Vienna Convention, and asked President Obama to "do the right thing" — by which Assange meant renouncing the U.S. "witch hunt against WikiLeaks," dissolving "its FBI investigation" of him and his secret-sharing site, and vowing that the U.S. "will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters," notably jailed Pfc. Bradley Manning. Assange did not address the sexual assault allegations he faces in Sweden if he steps foot out of the embassy, where London police are waiting to nab him and fulfill Sweden's extradition request. Is Assange using the noble patina of press freedoms to avoid facing justice for alleged sexual crimes, or is he right that the whole exercise is a U.S.-designed trap to get him extradited to America to face charges of espionage and leaking state secrets?

Assange is clearly being persecuted: "Everyone but the willfully blind knows that Assange is the victim of a witch hunt," says Chris Marsden at OpEd News. Sweden is but the "willing accomplice in the imperialist frame-up of Assange," a "filthy enterprise" orchestrated by the U.S. and assisted by Britain. You can bet that the Obama administration has "convened a secret grand jury to draw up charges against Assange," and if the U.S. gets the chance to act, the chief WikiLeaker will likely face the death penalty or life in "the black hole of Guantanamo."

"Imperialist lawlessness and the witch-hunt against Julian Assange"

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If anything, the U.S. is going too easy on WikiLeaks: This purported witch hunt doesn't exist, says Jonathon Narvey at The Propagandist. The only warrant for Assange's arrest is from Sweden, and the term "witch hunt" implies "an all-out campaign of harassment, intimidation, and actual arrests of WikiLeaks employees," or at the very least "an irrational, unnaturally obsessive focus" on silencing Assange. If anything, the U.S. "ought to be far more concerned with ensuring WikiLeaks doesn't... put both soldiers and American allies at risk" more than it already has.

"The American witch hunt against Julian Assange"

But the U.S. really could try to indict Assange: The "witch hunt" rhetoric is probably overblown, but according to newly released Australian diplomatic cables, the U.S. does have "an ongoing criminal investigation against Assange," says Kim Zetter at Wired. At a preliminary hearing against Manning last December, a U.S. prosecutor said there was evidence Assange helped Manning crack a password to access military documents. If the U.S. can prove that, "it would be evidence of a conspiracy," and Assange really could have a whole new extradition fight on his hands.

"Assange calls on U.S. to end 'witch hunt' against WikiLeaks"

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