Assange denounces 'war on whistleblowers'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called for an end to the "witch-hunt" against his secret-spilling website in his first public appearance since he took refuge inside Ecuador's Embassy in London two months ago.

"The war on whistleblowers must end," the 41-year-old Australian told reporters Sunday, speaking from a small balcony at the embassy in the city's posh Knightsbridge district.

"I ask President [Barack] Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow it will not seek to charge our staff or supporters," he said.

"As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression," the former computer hacker said.

Assange also called on the U.S. to release army private Bradley Manning, charged with leaking classified information. The 24-year-old intelligence analyst is accused of aiding the enemy by causing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to be published on the WikiLeaks website.

"On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days," Assange said at the news conference.

Assange took refuge inside Ecuador's Embassy in London on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual misconduct allegations. The WikiLeaks founder sought shelter at the embassy after exhausting all routes of appeal in the U.K. to avoid being sent to Sweden.

He appeared before the crowd to read his statement as dozens of police officers and just as many reporters stood below, along with a group of Latin American supporters.

British officials had said he would be arrested if he were to step outside the embassy.

Assange thanked Ecuador president Rafael Correa for granting him political asylum on Thursday and for "taking a stand for justice."

Correa on Saturday continued to stand behind his decision to grant political asylum to Assange.

At a rally in the city of Loja, in the southern part of the country, Correa said Ecuador made the decision in a "responsible, calm and sovereign manner," in order to "protect the life and human rights of Mr. Julian Assange."

Ecuador says if Assange is sent to Sweden he could end up being sent to the U.S.

An emergency meeting of Latin American leaders has been called for Friday in Washington, where they will discuss the standoff.

With files from The Associated Press