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Assange supporters cheer their hero, criticise British authorities

posted 19 Aug 2012, 09:23 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Aug 2012, 09:24 ]

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cheer as he emerges on the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been taking sanctuary since June.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (AUGUST 19, 2012) (REUTERS) - Julian Assange's supporters cheered wildly as he spoke from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Sunday (August 19).

He berated the United States for threatening freedom of expression and called on President Barack Obama to end what he called a witch-hunt against his whistle-blowing website.

Supporters have camped out for days awaiting the WikiLeaks founder's appearance.

His lawyer appeared earlier to say that Assange was in fighting spirit, but no more information was given about exactly what his next course of action will be.

This disappointed some of Assange's supporters.

"What was Julian's statement today? What value does it have? I think for Julian's supporters it has great value. He didn't tell us anything new, as yet. We were expecting something quite exciting, because Julian a master of surprise. He is still working at it. I guess his hands are tied as to what he can say," said Philip Tierney.

Assange had to make his speech from inside the embassy to avoid arrest by British police who want to extradite him to Sweden for questioning over rape allegations.

Britain has said it will not allow him safe passage to leave the country, even though Ecuador has granted him political asylum.

Supporters are angry at the stance the British government has taken.

"I thought it was really, really, really good that he came out, but I don't see why he couldn't come out.," said one woman who gave her first name only, Miranda.

"I can't see why the police are stopping him coming out, because they will arrest him if he steps out of the Ecuadorean embassy even though he has asylum. I don't understand that at all," she said.

Among the supporters was a noisy group of Latin Americans, waving Ecuadorean flags and cheering President Rafael Correa.

Correa, a self-declared enemy of "corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism", granted the former computer hacker political asylum last week, deepening a diplomatic stand-off with Britain and Sweden.

The embassy has been surrounded by large numbers of British police since last Wednesday, annoying Latin American community who have been outside cheering Assange.

"I am here supporting the Ecuadorean people and Julian Assange because as you can see there's hundreds and hundreds of police and as a Latino I feel like it is threatening our freedom and I feel threatened by the threats that the UK government has made to the Ecuadorean embassy," said Latino Amaru Cruz.

Another supporter, who only gave his name as Chinappa, said the situation has spiralled out of control.

"I think it is a contrived and very stupid situation where people are sitting on their high horses and they don't want to get off," he said.

Assange, 41, took sanctuary in the embassy in June, jumping bail after exhausting appeals in British courts against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted in Sweden for questioning regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault against two women.

He says he fears Sweden will eventually hand him over to the United States where, in his view, he would face persecution and long-term imprisonment. The United States says it is not involved in the matter.