WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would turn himself in to US authorities if President Barack Obama grants clemency to Chelsea Manning, the organization said on Twitter Thursday. WikiLeaks' statement was released one day before a Swedish appeals court decided to maintain a warrant for Assange's arrest over a 2010 rape charge. Assange has said that extradition to Sweden would lead to his eventual extradition to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of secret government documents.
"If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness," WikiLeaks said in a tweet on Thursday. The tweet included a link to a letter from Assange's attorney, Barry Pollack, calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about its investigation into WikiLeaks.
Manning, a former US Army private, was convicted in 2013 for providing a trove of documents and videos to WikiLeaks, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt in July, and this month went on a hunger strike to seek treatment for her gender dysphoria. Manning ended her hunger strike this week after the military agreed to allow her to have gender reassignment surgery. She still faces indefinite solitary confinement due to administrative charges related to her suicide attempt.
It's not clear whether US authorities are taking Assange's offer seriously. When reached by CNN, the Justice Department said it was not aware of any deal offered by Assange. As The Daily Dot notes, Obama has the power to commute Manning's sentences, and has granted 575 commutations during his presidency. Rights groups including the ACLU, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch also called on the president this week to pardon Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked troves of documents detailing US surveillance practices.
"Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape."
Assange has been living in political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. His lawyers have called on Sweden to adhere to a non-binding decision from a UN working group, which in February determined that his confinement at the embassy amounted to arbitrary detention. This week, WikiLeaks released a report on Assange's health, saying that his "mental health is highly likely to deteriorate over time if he remains in his current situation." The report was authored by an anonymous "trauma and psychosocial expert" and was dated December 2015.
Friday's hearing marks the eighth time that the Swedish appeals court has deliberated over the European warrant for Assange's arrest. In all previous hearings, the warrant was upheld. "The Court of Appeal shares the assessment of the District Court that Julian Assange is still suspected on probable cause of rape," the court said Friday, as reported by Reuters.
Ecuador announced earlier this week that Assange had agreed to answer questions pertaining to the rape charge. The questioning is scheduled to take place at the Ecuadorian embassy on October 17th, and will be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor, with a Swedish prosecutor present. Sweden had initially demanded that Assange come to Sweden for the interrogation, but later dropped that demand. Marianne Ny has said that Assange "hasn’t made himself available" to investigators, a claim that WikiLeaks denies.
Assange's lawyer tells the Associated Press that he will appeal today's decision to the Supreme Court.