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Assange in balcony appeal to Obama: Release leak suspect Bradley Manning

Kerim Okten / EPA

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media and supporters while British policemen stand outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Sunday.

Updated at 10:14 a.m. ET: LONDON -- From a second-floor window of his refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday called on President Obama to release Bradley Manning, the United States intelligence analyst accused of leaking masses of confidential information.

In his  first public appearance in two months, the former hacker thanked his supporters gathered outside the London embassy and appealed to the U.S. not to prosecute WikiLeaks staff and supporters.

From the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange asked the U.S. to "renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks." NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

"I call on President Obama to do the right thing - renounce the witch-hunt against Wikileaks," he said in a provocative address in which he appeared to invoke the support of dozens of Latin American countries.

The U.S. administration’s “war on whistleblowers must end,” he said.

Ecuador on Thursday granted political asylum to the former computer hacker who incensed the United States and its allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010.

Assange paid tribute to Manning, who is the suspected source of those leaks and faces 22 criminal charges which, if he is convicted, could land him in jail for life.

"If Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and one of the world's foremost political prisoners," Assange said.

Investigators have determined that Manning allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, but have not been able to make a link between those files and Assange.

Calling for US President Obama to "do the right thing," Wikileaks founder Julian Assange makes his first public statement since entering the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June to seek asylum. Watch his entire statement.

Assange spoke from a balcony at the embassy because Britain has made it clear it will arrest him the moment he steps out of the property.

The west London embassy is in a building shared with other tenants and has no vehicular access except via the street, meaning Assange could not even appear in the entrance hall without risking immediate arrest.

UK refuses WikiLeaks' Assange safe passage to Ecuador

With a police helicopter hovering overhead and protestors using megaphones, the international legal row over Assange's future has become a spectacle in what is an upscale area of London, just a few meters away from department store, Harrods.

The former hacker is wanted in Sweden for questioning regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault and Britain has said he will not be granted safe passage out of his Ecuadorean embassy refuge, which enjoys diplomatic status.

Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish jurist and prominent human rights investigator who heads Assange's legal team, was also expected to speak in a separate address outside the building ahead of Assange's appearance.

The United Kingdom is fighting the controversial decision and will not grant Julian Assange safe passage. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

A group of about 20 Assange supporters, many of whom have slept on sheets of cardboard outside the building since Wednesday, have decorated barriers with messages of support for Assange.

Army is pressed on why it kept trusting Manning

Assange's attempt to avoid extradition has provoked a diplomatic tussle between Britain and Ecuador, which said London had threatened to raid its embassy and cast the dispute as an arrogant European power treating a Latin American nation like a colony. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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