Two months after entering the Ecuadorean embassy in London — and days after the Latin American country offered him political asylum, angering the British government — Australian-born WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stepped out onto the building's balcony to address his supporters and the media. "I am here today because I cannot be there with you today," he began, alluding to the fact that he would be arrested and extradited to Sweden on sexual assault charges were he to step outside.
On Wednesday, after a threat was sent to this embassy and police descended on this building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it. And you brought the world's eyes with you. Inside this embassy, after dark, I could hear the police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you. If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Convention the other night, it was because the world was watching, and the world was watching because you were watching.
Assange also thanked Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (a onetime guest on Assange's short-lived Russian-broadcast talk show The World Tomorrow), the Ecuadorean people, and a long list of Latin American countries set to meet in Washington D.C. this coming Friday to discuss the embassy standoff.
As well as thanking "the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Australia who have supported me in strength even when their governments have not." (For the record, Australia did offer Assange "consular assistance," which he refused.)
Finally, Assange gave a quick shout-out to the New York Times, with whom he has had a somewhat rocky relationship, and called for the release of Bradley Manning, who he called "one of the world's foremost political prisoners," linking his situation to that of dissidents in the Middle East and Russia:
I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witchhunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful. There must be no more foolish thought of prosecuting any media organization, be it WikiLeaks or be it the New York Times.
On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detenion without trial — the legal maximum is 120 days. On Thursday, my friend Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentences to three years in prison for a twit [sic]. On Friday, a Russian band was 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.
With that, a quick "thank you," and two thumbs up, Assange went back into the embassy — either to be smuggled out in a diplomatic pouch or delivery bag, as one CNN host joked, or to spend another two months waiting for the world to decide what to do with him.