Julian Assange accuses Obama of exploiting Arab Spring
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused US President Barack Obama of seeking to exploit the Arab uprisings for personal and political gain.
Assange addressed a fringe meeting of the United Nations General Assembly via video link from his embassy hide-out. The Australian activist is sheltered inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, beyond the reach of British police, as refuge after he exhausted all legal routes to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime claims.
Assange claims the sex case is part of an orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the US over WikiLeaks, which published thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and documents. Both Sweden and the US deny that this is the case.
At the fringe meeting, organised by Ecuador, Assange drew parallels between himself and the instigators of the Arab Spring, claiming that they had all been let down by Obama.
“It must come as a surprise to Tunisians for Barack Obama to say the US supported the forces of change in Tunisia,” Assange said.
He claimed uprisings across the Arab world were inspired by his organisation’s disclosures about despotic rulers, including Tunisia’s deposed president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Assange also claimed that Obama, whose administration he accuses of building a criminal case against WikiLeaks and of harassing its staff, was seeking to exploit the reforms of the Arab Spring during his re-election campaign.
“Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could get re-elected,” Assange told the meeting, referring to the 2011 self-immolation by a Tunisian which sparked the uprising that toppled Ben Ali.
Assange, who made no reference to the Swedish sexual misconduct case, also accused Britain and Sweden of failing to provide guarantees that he would not face extradition to the US to help preserve close military and intelligence links with Washington.
Both European nations insist Assange must be sent to Sweden under international and European law and that they cannot legally offer pledges to refuse a possible future US extradition request.
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has granted asylum to Assange who, if he were step outside the country’s London embassy, would be arrested by police surrounding the building. The case has left Britain, Ecuador and Sweden at a diplomatic impasse. Foreign ministers from Quito and London will meet today as Assange marks 100 days in the embassy.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino said he believed there were “many ways to achieve a solution” without specifying potential routes. However, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague remarked on Tuesday that he saw “no sign of any breakthrough” in the saga.
The Foreign Office said it was “committed to seeking a diplomatic solution” with Ecuador, but insisted that it was legally obliged to send Assange to Sweden.