DHAKA: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appeared in public for the first time since he took refuge inside Ecuador`s embassy in London two months ago, addressing supporters from a balcony.
Assange, who sought shelter inside the nation`s mission on June 19, was on Thursday granted asylum by Ecuador as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual misconduct allegations.
Speaking on Sunday, Assange thanked Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa for the `courage he has shown`, in granting him asylum, reports Al Jazeera.
Britain cannot detain Assange while he remains inside the embassy, but will not allow him safe passage to Ecuador.
Assange also called for the US to `renounced its witch hunt against WikiLeaks` and called for the release of Bradley Manning, a US soldier who is awaiting trial after being charged with aiding the enemy by passing secret files to WikiLeaks.
`If Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to all of us and one of the world`s foremost political prisoners,` he said.
The US administration`s war on whistle-blowers must end.`
The 41-year-old Australian also highlighted the cases of Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was sentenced last week to three years for participating in `unauthorised` protests as well as Russian punk activist group, Pussy Riot, whose members were given a two year-sentence for on charges `hooliganism motivated by religious hatred`.
`There is unity in the oppression,` said Assange. `There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.`
Assange jumped bail and took sanctuary in the embassy in June after losing appeals in British courts against his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual offences against two women.
He fears Sweden can send him on to the US, where he believes authorities want to punish him for publishing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, many allegedly passed on by Manning, on WikiLeaks in 2010.
The US State Department said the struggle over Assange`s status was a matter between Ecuador, Britain and Sweden, and Washington had no plans to interject itself into the dispute.
Assange has not yet been formally charged with any crimes in either Sweden or the US.
BDST: 0106 HRS, AUG 20, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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