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Assange Sticks To Extradition Promise Now That Chelsea Manning Will Be Freed

The Wikileaks founder has been hiding out at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly five years.

19/01/2017 12:49 AM AEDT | Updated 19/01/2017 6:41 AM AEDT

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be headed to the United States to face trial.

He pledged last week via Twitter to accept extradition to the U.S. if President Barack Obama agreed to grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. Obama commuted Manning’s sentence on Tuesday.

However, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, Barry Pollack, said the decision to commute Manning doesn’t meet his client’s conditions for extradition, The Hill reported Wednesday.

“This is well short of what he sought,” Pollack told the publication. “Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.” 

Assange didn’t mention the extradition request on Tuesday when he released a statement on Manning, in which he asked the U.S. to end its “war” on whistleblowers. However, Melinda Taylor, who is one of his lawyers, made it clear that he was “standing by” what he had said:

Obama said Wednesday at his final press conference that Assange’s tweet about extradition had nothing to do with his decision to commute Manning’s sentence.  

“I don’t pay a lot of attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration,” he said. 

The U.S. has not yet submitted an extradition request for Assange, Taylor noted, although there’s an ongoing security prosecution against him. The U.K. hasn’t confirmed or denied whether it has received an extradition request either, she added.

Assange has not left the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when he submitted an asylum request to the country.

Ecuador temporarily cut off his internet toward the end of the American presidential campaign, citing concerns about interfering in the United States’ domestic affairs.

Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s minister of foreign affairs, told The Huffington Post last week, however, that their willingness to grant political asylum to Assange was a separate issue from concerns that he might be intervening in the American election from Ecuadorian territory.

“Ecuador acted within international law ... on the basis of a strong suspicion that there could have been a case of political persecution,” Long said. “We thought there was.”

As a result, the country plans to continue providing him with political refuge, unless he interferes in the affairs of Ecuador or the U.K., he added.

Assange is still wanted in Sweden on a rape charge, which he denies, and has said in the past that he fears U.S. extradition if he were to leave the embassy.

The White House said Tuesday that Assange’s pledge didn’t play a role in its decision to commute Manning’s sentence.

“The president’s decision to offer commutation was not influenced by public comments by Mr. Assange or the WikiLeaks organization,” a White House official told The Guardian. “I have no insight into Mr. Assange’s travel plans.”

This article has been updated to reflect comments Assange’s lawyer and Obama made Wednesday. 

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