U.S. denies seeking to ‘persecute’ WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
WASHINGTON — The United States said Thursday it was had no intention of “persecuting” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and denied charges that it was pressuring Britain to seize him.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined comment on Ecuador’s offer of asylum to Assange but rejected assertions by WikiLeaks and Quito that the Internet activist needed protection against the United States.
“With regard to the charge that the US was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely,” Nuland told reporters.
Asked whether the United States was pressuring Britain to seize Assange, who has been holed up for two months in Ecuador’s embassy in London, Nuland said she had “no information to indicate that there is any truth to that at all.”
Nuland did not comment on whether the United States was interested in general in prosecuting Assange, saying: “I am not going to get into all of the legal ins and outs about what may or may not have been in his future before he chose to take refuge in the Ecuadoran mission.”
Assange angered the United States by releasing a trove of classified US documents on his whistleblowing website. A young soldier accused of leaking the diplomatic cables, Bradley Manning, faces trial in a military court later this year.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault, and a British court had already ruled that Assange could be extradited.
Ecuador said Thursday that it was offering asylum to Assange because London, Stockholm and Washington refused to guarantee that Assange would not be sent on to the United States.
“It is an issue among the countries involved and we are not planning to interject ourselves,” Nuland told reporters.