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Assange demands end to 'witch-hunt'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made his first public appearance since seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London - and issued a defiant call to Washington to "renounce its witch-hunt" against his organisation.

The Australian appeared on the embassy's balcony - the first time he has been seen for two months - and urged the US government to "reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on".

Mr Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations, thanked Ecuador for taking a "stand for justice" in giving him political asylum.

The decision has led to a diplomatic stand-off involving Ecuador, Sweden and the British Government, which insists it is legally obliged to hand him over. Foreign Secretary William Hague has made it clear Mr Assange will not be allowed safe passage out of the country.

Mr Assange denies the allegations and fears being transferred to America if he travels to contest them. He enraged the US government in 2010 when WikiLeaks published tranches of secret US diplomatic cables.

Earlier, his legal adviser Baltasar Garzon said Mr Assange had instructed his lawyers "to carry out a legal action" to protect his rights. He told media representatives: "He demands that WikiLeaks and his own rights be respected. Julian Assange has instructed his lawyers to carry out a legal action in order to protect the rights of WikiLeaks, Julian himself and all those currently being investigated."

Mr Assange, who entered the building seeking asylum on June 19, thanked supporters who went to the embassy on Wednesday night, when it emerged that Britain had warned the Ecuadorian government that the diplomatic status of the embassy could legally be revoked.

He said: "On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy, the police descended on this building. You came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world's eyes with you.

"Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you. If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching."

"So the next time that somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the embassy of Ecuador. Remind them how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice."

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