WASHINGTON, (AFP) — US President Barack Obama on Saturday offered his strongest condemnation yet of WikiLeaks’ “deplorable” documents dump, as supporters of Julian Assange called for demonstrations to press for release of the website’s founder.
In a call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Obama “expressed his regrets for the deplorable action by WikiLeaks and the two leaders agreed that it will not influence or disrupt the close cooperation between the United States and Turkey,” the White House said.
The comments, and similar statements in a call to his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon, were Obama’s most forceful yet against the website, whose disclosure of a trove of secret US diplomatic cables has won it both condemnation and praise.
Obama’s call to Erdogan could be seen as an effort to soothe ruffled feathers in Turkey — a key regional US ally — where officials including the prime minister have railed against some of the information divulged by the documents.
But Spanish online supporters of Assange called Saturday for worldwide demonstrations to press for his release from a London jail, where he is awaiting possible extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations.
The Spanish website Free Wikileaks urged rallies at 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) in eight Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona. Similar demonstrations were planned in Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Lima.
In a manifesto entitled “For freedom, Say No to State Terrorism,” it demanded Assange’s release and “restoration of the WikiLeaks domain.”
“Given that no one has proved that Assange is guilty of the offences he is accused of and that Wikileaks is not implicated in any of those,” the website also urged that credit card giants Visa and Mastercard rescind their decisions to cut off payments from the website’s supporters.
Assange is due to appear in a London court for a second time Tuesday after being arrested on a warrant issued by Sweden. Prosecutors there want to question him about two women’s allegations of rape and sexual molestation.
WikiLeaks insists the allegations are a politically motivated attempt to smear Assange in retaliation for the leak of 250,000 confidential US documents, believed to have been passed to WikiLeaks by a US Army private.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been transferred from the main section of Wandsworth prison to an isolation unit, according to Jennifer Robinson, one of his legal team.
In the Netherlands, 75 people gathered in central Amsterdam to show their support for WikiLeaks, police spokesman Rob van der Veen told AFP.
The Amsterdam rally was sponsored by the Dutch Pirates Party “to call for protection of freedom of the press” and “to express displeasure with the attempt to silence” sites such as WikiLeaks.
In Peru, about a dozen Assange supporters gathered peacefully outside the British Embassy in Lima, where protestors stressed that the Assange’s values “affect us all.”
“Solidarity has no boundaries. Injustice is injustice in any part of the world,” protestor Jorge Meneses, 22, told AFP.
Meanwhile, newly divulged US diplomatic cables revealed a row between the Vatican and Ireland over a child abuse inquiry.
The Holy See hit back after cables released by WikiLeaks indicated it had refused to cooperate with an Irish probe into child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Dublin.
In other disclosures, mining giant BHP Billiton was said to have lobbied the Australian government hard to bring down a proposed 19.5 billion US dollar deal between its rival Rio Tinto and China’s Chinalco.
Spokesmen for BHP and Rio Tinto refused to comment on the US diplomatic cable published in The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.
Assange’s attorneys meanwhile complained that their client was getting no recreation time in prison, was having difficulties getting phone calls out, and was not allowed to have a laptop in his cell. “He is on his own,” Robinson said.
Assange was described as in “very good” spirits but “frustrated” that he could not answer the allegations that WikiLeaks was behind cyber attacks launched on credit card firms that have refused to do business with the website.
“He told me he is absolutely not involved and this is a deliberate attempt to conflate WikiLeaks, which is a publishing organisation, with hacking organisations which are not,” Robinson said.
And Assange’s mother said she was worried for her son because “massive forces” were ranged against him.