WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking via a video feed from London, lashed out at US President Barack Obama on Wednesday for supporting freedom of speech in the Middle East while simultaneously “persecuting” his organization for leaking diplomatic cables.
Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy since June to avoid extradition, made the comments at a packed event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Wikileaks founder mocked Obama for defending free speech in the Arab world in an address to the United Nations on Tuesday, pointing to his own experience as evidence that Obama has “done more to criminalize free speech than any other US president.”
“It must have come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes (during the Arab Spring) to hear that the US supported change in the Middle East,” Assange said.
“It’s time for President Obama to keep his word … and for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks,” he said.
Assange’s combative comments, plus statements made by Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and his other allies at the event, suggested no solution is in sight to the diplomatic standoff surrounding the 41-year-old Australian.
British authorities have surrounded the Ecuadorean Embassy and said if Assange sets foot outside, they will arrest him and extradite him to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations.