Wikileaks boss Julian Assange backs away from promise to surrender over Chelsea Manning
Wikileaks boss Julian Assange has backed away from a public offer to surrender himself to authorities, despite President Obama acting to free trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
US Army soldier Pvt Chelsea Manning had been serving a 35-year prison sentence in Fort Leavenworth military prison after leaking details of classified government documents concerning alleged war crimes and rights abuses via WikiLeaks.
Despite announcing her transition to female in 2013, Manning has been denied the right to transition behind bars, leading her to make several suicide attempts.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has sought to evade authorities by living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, earlier this week offered to surrender himself “if Obama grants Manning clemency”.
Obama did grant Manning clemency in one of his final acts as President yesterday, cutting her sentence by nearly three decades and paving the way for her release in May.
However, Assange remains inside the embassy – despite the ample presence of police officers outside willing to detain him at any time.
In a statement to The Hill, Assange’s attorney Barry Pollack appeared to back away from the offer, suggesting the Wikileaks founder does not consider his bargain satisfied.
He said: “Mr Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought. Mr Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.”
Meanwhile a statement from Wikileaks suggested that he would only go to the US “provided all his rights are guarenteed [sic]”.
It said: “Assange is still happy to come to the US provided all his rights are guarenteed despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-quo-pro.”
The tweeted offer from Wikileaks earlier this week had made no such strings clear.
It had simply said: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DOJ [Department of Justice] case”.
Despite the suggestion that he would agree to “US extradition”, the only outstanding warrant for Assange’s arrest is from Sweden, where he is wanted in connection with a rape allegation.
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President Obama’s press secretary Josh Earnest meanwhile denied that the White House had asked the UK or Ecuador to take any action against Julian Assange.
He said: “I’m not aware of any specific request like that that was made. You know that the U.S. intelligence community, and even the President, have expressed some deep concerns about the ties between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks and other organizations like it that were created to disseminate either classified information or previously private information. And we know that much of those efforts to disseminate that information was rooted in a Republican — Russian strategy to undermine confidence in American democracy.
“So we have profound concerns about the way that that organization, WikiLeaks, has operated, and we have expressed profound concerns about the way that some of the things that they have done and some of the information that they have released has harmed our national security, has put our military and our intelligence officers in harm’s way and made their dangerous work even more dangerous. But I can’t speak to any specific requests that may have been made of the Brits or the Ecuadoreans.”
President-elect Donald Trump has previously praised Assange and Wikileaks for publishing illegally hacked emails from the Democratic National Convention – casting doubt over the future of any speculative case against the Wikileaks founder for hacking-related charges in the US.
Assange has not left London’s Ecuadoran embassy since 2012.