Assange serene and defiant in dramatic 'Evita' address

By
Protesters have gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy, together with press and police.
A news ticker shows details of a Wikileaks release. The diplomatic cables the organisation made available infruriated western governments.

Julian Assange looked serene defiant today after he gave a speech on a balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in a move which drew comparisons to Evita Peron.

The Wikileaks founder, who looked healthy and wore a shirt and tie, appeared to break Ecuador's rule that he not issue political statements in a provocative statement during which he associated himself with jailed Russian band Pussy Riot.

"The sun came up on a different world and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice," he said.

"I thank [Ecuadorian president] Rafael Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and granting me political asylum.


"To my children, who have been denied their father, forgive me, we will be reunited soon."

He added: "We must use this moment to articulate the choice before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice?

"On Friday, a Russian group 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."

A circus of press, police and sympathisers gathered outside the building in Kensington for the address. There were chaotic scenes as police held back ranks of the international press from the embassy as stormy weather broke out overhead.

The comparisons with Evita Peron are based on her famous address from the balcony of the Casa Rosada presidential mansion in 1945, in which she promised elections would be held soon. That echo of her speech was emphasised by Assange's decision to list Latin American countries prepared to stand up to US and UK foreign policy today.

The balcony is still considered Ecuadorian territory, meaning police could detain the Wikileaks founder for extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault.

Instead, they were forced to watch as he delivered his statement from the first floor, just metres away from them.

Meanwhile, Ecuador secured a meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and tried to do the same with the left-leaning Union of South American Nations over Britain's alleged threat to revoke the status of its embassy to acquire Assange.

The meetings suggest Latin American countries are uniting against Britain after it sent Ecuador a letter saying it could use the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 to enter the embassy.

While such a move would require a protracted legal process, complete with appeals and checks against international law, the letter sparked outrage at British plans to "storm" the embassy, prompting many observers to brand it an own goal by the Foreign Office.

"There is no threat here to storm an embassy. We are talking about an act of parliament in this country which stresses that it must be used in full conformity with international law," foreign secretary William Hague said.

But OAS president José Miguel Insulza said the letter raised issues which needed to be addressed by the organisation.

"What is being proposed is that the foreign ministers of our organisation address this subject and not the subject of asylum nor whether it should be granted to Mr Julian Assange. That will be discussed between Great Britain and Ecuador," he said.

"The issue that concerns us is the inviolability of diplomatic missions of all members of this organisation."

Assange's camp was trying to keep channels open despite the impasse between the UK and Ecuador today. The Sunday Times reported Assange's camp were offering a compromise if Sweden were to guarantee it would not extradite the Australian on to the US, where he is concerned he would face charges for espionage.

Sweden has already ruled out providing such an assurance, which would be contrary to international political conventions.

Meanwhile, newly released documents from the Australian government raise questions about the reliability of the Wikileaks founder's statements.

One showed Australian officials had tried to contact Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy eight times, only for him to refuse their help. This directly contradicts Assange's insistence they had "abandoned" him.

The documents also show that any attempt to prosecute Assange in the US under the Espionage Act would face "serious obstacles".

Many analysts believe the Wikileak founder could actually be much more easily prosecuted in the UK, given the US' legal emphasis on free speech.

Comments

Load in comments