Two months after he dramatically disappeared behind the closed doors of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange made his first public appearance on Sunday as he emerged on its balcony and-- cheered by his supporters gathered below-- asked America to ``renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks’’.

"The United States must pledge before the world (it) will not pursue journalists for shining light on the secret crimes of the powerful. The U.S. administration’s war against whistle blowers must end," he said directly appealing to President Barack Obama to ``do the right thing’’ .

Mr Assange also demanded the release of Bradley Manning, the American soldier awaiting trial for allegedly leaking secret government files to WikiLeaks, pointing out that he had already spent more than 800 days in detention without trial whereas ``the legal maximum’’ was 120 days.

Wearing a full-sleeved light blue shirt and a red tie with his hair heavily cropped, Mr Assange stood pointedly next to the Ecuadorian national flag as a line of police officers waited outside to arrest him if he stepped out of the embassy.

``I am here today because I cannot be closer to you,” he told his supporters.

Mr Assange, who is at the centre of a diplomatic row between Britain and Ecuador after the latter granted him asylum, recalled how the police `` descended on this building’’ as the British Government threatened to strip Ecuador of its diplomatic status and storm its embassy to seize him.

"Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses, and that is because of you," he said.

Describing the threat to WikiLeaks as an attack on free speech , Mr Assange said: "We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to and re-affirm the revolutionary values it was founded on? Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark."

He concluded his 10-minute speech, peppered with praise for Ecuador, with a `` thumbs up’’ to the world's media.

More In: International | News