- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2012

The State Department on Monday accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of making “wild assertions” about the United States in an attempt to divert attention from Sweden’s investigation into whether he should be charged with rape.

“He is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he’s going to face justice in Sweden,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nulandsaid. “That case has nothing to do with us.”

Her remarks came in response to a speech delivered Sunday by Mr. Assange, who assailed the United States for engaging in a “witch hunt” against WikiLeaks for publishing thousands of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents.

Mr. Assange made no mention of the rape accusations during the speech delivered from the balcony the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remains holed up to avoid British authorities seeking to extradite him to Sweden.

He asserted that “the United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.”

WikiLeaks supporters have long claimed that the Sweden’s investigation is actually a front for a wider international attempt driven by Washington’s desire to have him stand trial in the United States.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is awaiting trial in Virginia on charges related to obtaining and then passing archives of classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Last week, Ecuador granted asylum to Mr. Assange, who has been living in the Latin American nation’s London embassy since June.

The Obama administration has said the question of whether Mr. Assange should be forcefully extracted from the embassy or allowed safe passage to Ecuador is one to be resolved by the governments of Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.