Julian Assange claimed in a live video address broadcast during an event parallel to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army soldier accused of providing classified intelligence to WikiLeaks, has been tortured while imprisoned.
“Bradley Manning, science fair all-star, soldier and patriot was degraded, abused and psychologically tortured by his own government,” said Assange, broadcasting from the Ecuardoian Embassy in London where he’s been living for months. “He was charged with a death penalty offence. These things happened to him, as the U.S. government tried to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me.”
Assange was careful not to confirm that Manning was involved in any intelligence leak — the words “alleged” or “allegedly” appear five times throughout the approximately 1,700-word speech.
He also accused the U.S. of excessively prosecuting whistleblowers, while calling on the American government to “cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people and to cease its persecution of our alleged sources.”
“The US administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy, a national regime of obfuscation,” said Assange. “A regime where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organization can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or for espionage and journalists from a media organization with them.”
Ecuador granted political asylum to Assange earlier this year. However, British police surround the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, having warned Assange he’ll be arrested and extradited to Sweden to be questioned on allegations of sexual assault if he leaves the embassy.
Assange fears extradition to Sweden would mean being sent to the U.S., which he claims has secret charges against him relating to WikiLeaks’ release of classified American military and diplomatic cables. The U.S. has denied those claims, but a report from the Sydney Morning Herald claims that the United States has classified Assange and WikiLeaks as “enemies of the state.”