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Julian Assange’s lawyer says Obama still hasn’t met standards for extradition promise

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

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that President Barack Obama hasn’t met Assange’s standards for a promise to face extradition, something WikiLeaks claimed he would do if Obama granted whistleblower Chelsea Manning clemency. Yesterday, Obama commuted Manning's sentence from 35 years to just over seven years, meaning she should be released in May. But according to a statement in The Hill, attorney Barry Pollack says that while Assange “welcomes” the reduction of Manning’s sentence, Obama's actions are “well short of what he sought.”

“Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately,” said Pollack. WikiLeaks announced the deal in a tweet last September, saying that “if Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange — despite its clear unlawfulness.” It reiterated the promise earlier this month.

After yesterday’s news, the WikiLeaks account tweeted another Assange lawyer saying that “everything that he has said he's standing by.” Assange has spent over four years at Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he’s staying to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual assault investigation — and, once in Sweden, possible extradition to the US over his role in releasing a trove of diplomatic cables leaked by Manning in 2010. (Assange has denied the sexual assault charges, and Swedish prosecutors eventually began interviews at Ecuador’s embassy late last year.) While the Department of Justice has previously confirmed it was investigating Assange, it has not filed formal charges against him.

Obama’s actions met the demand WikiLeaks laid on on Twitter: while he didn’t grant Manning a full pardon, commuting a sentence is a form of executive clemency, by the Department of Justice’s definition. Neither WikiLeaks message mentioned an immediate release as part of the deal. And a recent tweet suggests that the offer to face extradition still stands in some form, although the conditions are more nebulous. “Assange is still happy to come to the US provided all his rights are guarenteed [sic] despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-quo-pro,” WikiLeaks wrote this morning. We asked for clarification via Twitter and email, but are still awaiting a response.

WikiLeaks released a statement last night that

“I welcome President Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of my alleged source Ms. Chelsea Manning from 35 years to time served. Ms. Manning should never have been convicted in the first place. Ms. Manning is a hero, whose bravery should be applauded. 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. If democracy and the rule of law are to thrive, 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."