Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks.org website that published more than 250,000 of U.S. diplomatic cables sent to or from embassies around the world.
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,” Lula said at an event today 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 and the U.K.’s Guardian, 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 U.S. government attempts to solicit Brazil’s help in isolating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and showed U.S. diplomats discussing anti-American members of the Lula government.
Lula said that WikiLeaks “exposed a diplomacy that seemed to be untouchable.”
Assange turned himself into U.K. authorities on Dec. 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.
After Assange’s arrest, cyber attacks crashed the website of the Swedish prosecution authority and partially disabled the websites of MasterCard Inc. and Visa Europe Ltd., after they which stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.
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 then.
Brazilian diplomats should also be aware of what they write, Lula said today. “If you don’t have anything to write, don’t write silliness.”