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WikiLeaks urges US to probe alleged rights abuses

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By FRANK JORDANS
The Associated Press
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 5:09 PM

GENEVA -- The founder of WikiLeaks urged U.S. authorities on Thursday to investigate possible rights abuses committed by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of pursuing those who have leaked information to his group.

Australian-born Julian Assange said the U.S. hadn't opened any probes into the alleged incidents detailed in secret documents published by WikiLeaks since the group began putting them online in July. Assange contrasted this with Britain and Denmark, whose governments he said had already taken some steps to examine possible wrongdoing from the leaked U.S. war logs.

"It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up," he told reporters near the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva, where on Friday the U.S. will face its first comprehensive human rights review by the global body.

A U.S. Defense Department spokesman dismissed the suggestion that the leaking of the documents should prompt any further investigations into wrongdoing by American troops.

"They're our internal reports," said Maj. Chris Perrine. "The idea that we haven't investigated any of these is false."

In the five years from 2005 to June 2010, military criminal investigators had examined some 970 cases related to Afghanistan and Iraq. Eighty-eight of those resulted in "further disciplinary action," said Perrine.

Following the recent publication by WikiLeaks of nearly 400,000 field reports by American soldiers in Iraq, the U.N.'s top human rights official said the U.S. and Iraq should prosecute anyone believed responsible for torture, unlawful killings and other abuses.

WikiLeaks has come under increasing pressure since July, when it first published 77,000 secret U.S. documents on the war in Afghanistan.

Assange said his group now devotes 70 percent of its resources to defending itself from attacks against its collaborators and its financial infrastructure, which he said were "mostly by the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence."

"We have never faced such difficulties as an organization as in the past three months," he said, flanked by two bodyguards.

Assange said future leaks would cover other countries, such as Russia and Lebanon, as well as the United States.

----

Associated Press writers Raphael G. Satter in London and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.


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