Emotional Assange hails 'victory' from embassy balcony

5th February 2016, Comments 0 comments

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hailed a UN panel opinion on his confinement Friday as a "victory" in an emotional speech from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy in London where he has been holed up since 2012.

"How sweet it is! This is a victory that cannot be denied. It is a victory of historical importance," he told a scrum of journalists and supporters outside.

Referring to his children, the 44-year-old Australian campaigner said: "It's time that they had their father back. That will happen one way or the other."

It was one of only a handful of times that he has appeared in public in three-and-a-half years of self-imposed confinement in a cramped office.

Assange has said he fears for his personal safety if he comes out on to the balcony, citing unspecified threats.

Brandishing a hard copy of the panel's opinion, he was dressed in a charcoal suit and tie and squinted in the daylight as he spoke.

He paused frequently, apparently overwhelmed.

"I'm tough, I'm hardened by this process and I can take it. However, what right does this government or the US government or the Swedish government have to deny my children their right to their father for five years?" he said, referring to the first time he was arrested in 2010 due to a rape accusation in Sweden.

Assange claimed that he was under an "illegal, immoral, unethical detention" after British police said they would arrest him as soon as he sets foot outside the embassy onto British soil to extradite him to Sweden.

One supporter in the crowd shouted: "Your friends are here Julian!" as he emerged onto the balcony.

But when he heard a heckler, Assange responded: "Can someone close that person off?"

© 2016 AFP

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