Two years after he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, lawyers for the controversial Wikileaks honcho rally for another attempt to secure his freedom.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange marked the second year to the day on Thursday as an occupant of the Ecuadorian embassy at 3 Hans Crescent in Knightsbridge, London.
Assange, whose Wikileaks site has published more than 8 million anonymously leaked documents since 2006, took the opportunity with his US- and UK-based lawyers to speak to the press on a conference call from the embassy about his legal struggles with the US, UK, and Swedish governments.
The 42-year-old Australian native railed against the four-year-long US criminal investigation of Wikileaks, claiming that it's the largest Department of Justice investigation of a publisher since the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917.
"It is against the stated principles of the United States and the values supported by its people to have a four-year pre-law investigation against a publisher," Assange said. "It is not correct for [US Attorney General] Eric Holder and the DOJ to use weasel words for stating that they will not prosecute a reporter for reporting."
Assange said that by investigating Wikileaks, the US government wants to create a schism between national security reporters and "those reporters who report the details of a press conference."
"I call on Eric Holder today to immediately drop the national security investigation against Wikileaks," he said.
The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment. Despite allegations, Assange has not been charged with a crime by authorities in the US or UK related to espionage, or by the Swedish authorities seeking his extradition over rape allegations.
Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy on June 19, 2012, seeking political asylum from a British court order to extradite him to Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women there. Assange's attorneys stressed that since then they have been willing to have Assange interviewed over the phone or by video conference, but that Swedish officials refuse to meet with him except on Swedish soil.
"If he goes to Sweden it will likely be a one-way ticket to the United States," said Michael Ratner, the US-based attorney for Assange and Wikileaks. Assange receives support from and is a trustee of the Courage Foundation, which also provides legal and financial support to Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower. Assange says he assisted Snowden when communicating from Hong Kong.
Ratner and Jennifer Robinson, Assange's lawyer in the UK, said that they plan to file a new legal challenge to the rape allegations in Swedish courts next Tuesday based on "new information gathered in Sweden," although they declined to provide additional details.
Assange's legal team said that it has cost the British taxpayers more than $10 million to keep him under 24-hour surveillance to prevent him from attempting to leave the country.
They also claimed that Wikileaks would release new documents on Thursday involving Canada and 49 other countries. Assange declined to answer a question about whether the documents were connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed expansion of an existing trade agreement that has been criticized for conducting its negotiations in secret.