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Julian Assange remains silent on extradition promise

WikiLeaks founder had said he would agree to US extradition if Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence

UN Panel Rules That Wikileaks Founder Is Arbitrarily Detained Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange welcomed President Obama’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning on Thursday, but it is not clear whether he will agree to extradition to the US, as WikiLeaks previously said.

"Ms. Manning is a hero, whose bravery should be applauded," Assange said in the statement released Tuesday. "Journalists, publishers, and their sources serve the public interest and promote democracy by distributing authentic information on key matters such as human rights abuses and illegal acts by government officials. They should not be prosecuted."

In a tweet published last week, WikiLeaks said: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.” The organization posted a similar tweet in September 2016.

Assange, an Australian national, has been avoiding extradition to Sweden, where investigators have sought to question him in relation to sexual assault accusations. Assange has denied the accusations and believes that Sweden would extradite him to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified material.

Assange did not directly address WikiLeaks’ promise in the statement released Tuesday, saying only that “the Obama administration's war on whistleblowers and publishers, which has seen more prosecutions than all previous presidents combined, including against myself, my organization and my alleged sources, must come to an end."

Melinda Taylor, one of Assange’s lawyers, told the Associated Press: “Everything that he has said he's standing by." She added, however, that it was still unclear whether American authorities have actually requested Assange’s extradition to the US. Emails and a phone call to Taylor seeking clarification went unanswered on Wednesday morning.

Speaking on a call with reporters yesterday, a White House official said that Assange’s promise did not influence Obama’s decision on Manning, who was convicted in 2013 for leaking troves of classified military material to WikiLeaks. Obama’s decision was met with criticism from Republican leaders, with House Speaker Paul Ryan describing it as “outrageous.”

“The president’s decision to offer commutation was not influenced by public comments by Mr Assange or the WikiLeaks organization,” The Guardian quoted the official as saying. “I have no insight into Mr Assange’s travel plans. I can’t speak to any charges or potential charges he may be facing from the justice department.”