Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil, defended Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks.org website, which published more than 250,000 of U.S. diplomatic cables sent to or from embassies around the world and asked where are those rabid defenders of freedom of expression.
Lula, a former union leader, said Assange did less harm than the classified documents’ authors, and offered his “solidarity” with the jailed Australian national.
“I’m surprised they arrested the man and I didn’t see any protest, not a word in defense of freedom of expression or freedom of the press” Lula da Silva said at an event in Brasilia. “The guy was just posting what he read.”
Details of the cables, published in the media by newspapers including the New York Times, UK’s Guardian and Spain’s El Pais, included a directive for U.S. diplomats to gather biometric information and other details of key United Nations officials and offers to countries to accept Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Leaked cables from Brazil shed light on US government attempts to solicit Brazil’s help in isolating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and showed US diplomats discussing anti-American members of the Lula government.
The Brazilian president said that WikiLeaks “exposed a diplomacy that seemed to be untouchable”.
Assange turned himself into U.K. authorities on December 7 after Sweden released an international arrest warrant for him to face sexual assault charges. The case had previously been dropped by Swedish prosecutors before the cables were published, according to media reports.
Last week, Lula said President Barack Obama should be “very worried” about the release of the cables, as they undermine global diplomacy. U.S. diplomats need to be more careful when sending their reports in the future, he said.
Brazilian diplomats should also be aware of what they write, Lula da Silva said on Thursday. “I’m going to talk it over with (president-elect) Dilma, about our diplomats and what messages the send, but if you don’t have anything to write, don’t write silliness.”