Founder of whistleblowing website marks six months’ confinement in Ecuadorean embassy with bullish speech
Julian Assange has said that WikiLeaks is preparing to publish 1m new secret government documents as he marked six months of refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London with a speech from its balcony on Thursday.
The WikiLeaks founder has remained in the embassy to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden on suspicion of sexual offences. There is a permanent police guard and Assange will be arrested if he leaves the premises.
About 80 supporters gathered on Thursday night to hear Assange speak. They carried candles and held placards reading, “Don’t shoot the messenger” and “Don’t trust Sweden”. Some sang Christmas carols as they waited for Assange to speak from the first floor balcony, a short distance from Harrods department store. There were 60 additional police officers on duty.
Assange emerged with a raised fist and greeted the crowd: “What a sight for sore eyes. People ask what gives me hope. The answer is right here.”
He was momentarily disturbed when a journalist from Channel 4 shouted questions at him with a loudhailer, but he recovered and delivered a 15-minute speech which was high in rhetoric and low in novelty.
“Six months ago I entered this building. It has become my home, my office and my refuge. Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorean government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy and safe to speak from this embassy,” he said.
Assange said that as long as the US government sought to persecute him and the Australian government refused to support him, he had no choice but to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy.
He said he was willing to negotiate with anyone. “However, the door is open, and the door has always been open, for anyone who wishes to use standard procedures to speak to me or guarantee my safe passage,” he said.
Assange said attempts to prosecute him were an attack on freedom of speech before stepping back into the embassy.
Time Blades, 40, one of Assange’s supporters, said that he had been coming to the embassy to show his support for the WikiLeaks founder since August.
“I come in defence of freedom of speech and to defend the right of Julian Assange to have asylum granted to him by a sovereign and independent country. This cannot go on for ever. The British government has to permit safe access to Ecuador for Julian Assange. This will only happen as a result of diplomatic pressure and the people pressure,” he said.
Ana Alban, the Ecuadorean ambassador, said in a statement that his government continued to support Assange.
Thursday December 20th, 2012
Good evening London.
What a sight for sore eyes. People ask what gives me hope. Well, the answer is right here.
Six months ago – 185 days ago – I entered this building.
It has become my home, my office and my refuge.
Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy to speak to you.
And every single day outside, for 185 days, people like you have watched over this embassy – come rain, hail and shine.
Every single day. I came here in summer. It is winter now.
I have been sustained by your solidarity and I’m grateful for the efforts of people all around the world supporting the work of WikiLeaks, supporting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, essential elements in any democracy.
While my freedom is limited, at least I am still able to communicate this Christmas, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight.
Unlike Gottfrid Svartholm in Sweden tonight.
Unlike Jeremy Hammond in New York tonight.
Unlike Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain tonight.
And unlike Bradley Manning, who turned 25 this week, a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10 per cent of his life in jail, without trial, some of that time in a cage, naked and without his glasses.
And unlike so many others whose plights are linked to my own.
I salute these brave men and women. And I salute journalists and publications that have covered what continues to happen to these people, and to journalists who continue publishing the truth in face of persecution, prosecution and threat – who take journalism and publishing seriously.
Because it is from the revelation of truth that all else follows.
Our buildings can only be as tall as their bricks are strong.
Our civilization is only as strong as its ideas are true.
When our buildings are erected by the corrupt, when their cement is cut with dirt, when pristine steel is replaced by scrap – our buildings are not safe to live in.
And when our media is corrupt, when our academics are timid, when our history is filled with half- truths and lies – our civilization will never be just. It will never reach to the sky.
Our societies are intellectual shanty towns. Our beliefs about the world and each other have been created by the same system that has lied us into repeated wars that have killed millions.
You can’t build a skyscraper out of plasticine. And you can’t build a just civilization out of ignorance and lies.
We have to educate each other. We have to celebrate those who reveal the truth and denounce those who poison our ability to comprehend the world that we live in.
The quality of our discourse is the limit of our civilization.
But this generation has come to its feet and is revolutionizing the way we see the world.
For the first time in history the people who are affected by history are its creators.
And for other journalists and publications – your work speaks for itself, and so do your war crimes.
I salute those who recognize the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know – recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognized in the First Amendment of the United States – we must recognize that these are in danger and need protection like never before.
WikiLeaks is under a continuing Department of Justice investigation, and this fact has been recognized rightly by Ecuador and the governments of Latin America as one that materially endangers my life and my work.
Asylum is not granted on a whim, but granted on facts.
The U.S. investigation is referred to in testimony – under oath – in the U.S. courts, is admitted by the Department of Justice, and in the Washington Post just four days ago by the District Attorney of Virginia, as a fact. Its subpoenas are being litigated by our people in the U.S. courts. The Pentagon reissued its threats against me in September and claimed the very existence of WikiLeaks is an ongoing crime.
My work will not be cowed. But while this immoral investigation continues, and while the Australian government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here.
However, the door is open – and the door has always been open – for anyone who wishes to speak to me. Like you, I have not been charged with a crime. If you ever see spin that suggests otherwise, note this corruption of journalism and then go to justice4assange.com for the full facts. Tell the world the truth, and tell the world who lied to you.
Despite the limitations, despite the extra-judicial banking blockade, which circles WikiLeaks like the Cuban embargo, despite an unprecedented criminal investigation and a campaign to damage and destroy my organization, 2012 has been a huge year.
We have released nearly one million documents:
Documents relating to the unfolding war in Syria.
We have exposed the mass surveillance state in hundreds of documents from private intelligence companies.
We have released information about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere – the symbol of the corruption of the rule of law in the West, and beyond.
We’ve won against the immoral blockade in the courts and in the European Parliament.
After a two-year fight, contributions to WikiLeaks have gone from being blockaded and tax-deductible nowhere to being tax-deductible across the entirety of the European Union and the United States.
And last week information revealed by WikiLeaks was vital – and cited in the judgment – in determining what really happened to El-Masri, an innocent European kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.
Next year will be equally busy. WikiLeaks has already over a million documents being prepared to be released, documents that affect every country in the world. Every country in this world.
And in Australia an unelected Senator will be replaced by one that is elected.
In 2013, we continue to stand up to bullies. The Ecuadorian government and the governments of Latin America have shown how co-operating through shared values can embolden governments to stand up to coercion and support self-determination. Their governments threaten no one, attack no one, send drones at no one. But together they stand strong and independent.
The tired calls of Washington powerbrokers for economic sanctions against Ecuador, simply for defending my rights, are misguided and wrong. President Correa rightly said, “Ecuador’s principles are not for sale.” We must unite together to defend the courageous people of Ecuador, to defend them against intervention in their economy and interference in their elections next year.
The power of people speaking up and resisting together terrifies corrupt and undemocratic power. So much so that ordinary people here in the West are now the enemy of governments, an enemy to be watched, an enemy to be controlled and to be impoverished.
True democracy is not the White House. True democracy is not Canberra. True democracy is the resistance of people, armed with the truth, against lies, from Tahrir to right here in London. Every day, ordinary people teach us that democracy is free speech and dissent.
For once we, the people, stop speaking out and stop dissenting, once we are distracted or pacified, once we turn away from each other, we are no longer free. For true democracy is the sum – is the sum – of our resistance.
If you don’t speak up – if you give up what is uniquely yours as a human being: if you surrender your consciousness, your independence, your sense of what is right and what is wrong, in other words – perhaps without knowing it, you become passive and controlled, unable to defend yourselves and those you love.
People often ask, “What can I do?”
The answer is not so difficult.
Learn how the world works. Challenge the statements and intentions of those who seek to control us behind a facade of democracy and monarchy.
Unite in common purpose and common principle to design, build, document, finance and defend.
Learn. Challenge. Act.