WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Thursday that freedom of speech for the U.S. government is mere lip service and is being employed by U.S. President Barack Obama to gain political traction.
In a video clip beamed at a side event in the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, Mr Assange said the speech delivered by the U.S. leader before the world body on Tuesday was meaningless.
In a mocking commentary, the Australian national wondered how the United States could declare support for the Arab Spring, insist that freedom of speech must be guaranteed by governments, when it cannot tolerate transparency, which he added is the core advocacy of his anti-secrecy site.
In his speech, Mr Obama mouthed what sounded like a campaign catch-phrase, reiterating that he would tirelessly defend the right to speak out for everyone, including scathing criticisms of his government.
The U.S. president is running for reelection this November and that is exactly the agenda behind his UN address, Mr Assange suggested in the video.
A politician that he is, the former hacker, who remains holed up on Ecuador's embassy in London, said Mr Obama's campaign team only seeks to capitalise on the Arab Spring, which was set off in early 2011 and led to the downfall of governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
"Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could get re-elected," Mr Assange was reported by The Associated Press (AP) as saying on Thursday.
Mr Bouazizi was the fruit vendor who resorted to self-immolation when he was prevented by Tunisian authorities to continue his trade in 2011, which sparked the country's revolution that year, AP said.
Mr Assange insisted that Mr Obama was hardly the freedom icon that he is projecting to be, citing that the relentless persecution unleashed by Washington on his Web site was solid proof enough of what lies beneath the talks and actions of the American president.
WikiLeaks had published classified diplomatic documents of the United States starting in 2010, their contents most embarrassing to Washington.
His current legal predicaments, Mr Assange has been insisting, take their root on the U.S. government's intent to bring him before a U.S. court to face sedition and espionage charges, likely meriting the death sentence.
"It's time for President Obama to keep his word . . . and for the U.S. to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks," the Aussie national was quoted by Reuters as saying on the video.
He noted too that in order to crackdown on his "activist" Web site, Mr Obama "has done more to criminalise free speech than any other U.S. president."
Mr Assange is under the diplomatic protection of Ecuador and has been granted asylum in August but could not fly to the South American nation as British authorities vowed to arrest him the moment he steps out of the Ecuadorian mission in London.
The UK government has pledged that Mr Assange will be extradited to Sweden, where authorities want to question him on alleged rape assaults, charges that the Aussie said were pretext to pave the way for his deportation to the United States.
Ecuador has sided with the WikiLeaks founder and has refused to hand him over to Scotland Yard without a solid guarantee from both Britain and Sweden that Mr Assange will not end up behind bars in America.
British Foreign Minister William Hague told AP that he is slated to meet his Ecuadorian counterpart, Ricardo Patino, on Thursday in New York to discuss the Assange Affair, which has developed into a diplomatic row involving the UK, Ecuador and Sweden.
However, Mr Hague admitted that the issue could drag on as he reiterated that Britain was "committed to seeking a diplomatic solution," but equally obliged to implement its extradition treaty with the Swedish government.
For his part, Mr Patino told Reuters that Ecuador has made known its stand on the matter, adding that the ball has been tossed to the British side.
He insisted that Quito is fully convinced Mr Assange is being persecuted by governments.
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