18 Jan 2017

Manning release could result in Assange extradition

4:11 pm on 18 January 2017

After nearly five years in political asylum, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could agree to extradition to the US, comments from his lawyer and Wikileaks suggest.

Julian Assange addresses media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London earlier this year

Julian Assange addresses media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (file) Photo: AFP

Mr Assange has sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden and the US.

In a tweet sent four days ago, Wikileaks said its founder would agree to the extradition if former US intelligence officer Chelsea Manning was freed from prison.

Manning was granted clemency by US President Barack Obama today and will be freed on 17 May, instead of her scheduled 2045 release.

She was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for her role in leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks while she was deployed in Iraq.

The leak was one of the largest breaches of classified material in US history.

Mr Assange's supporters and legal team fear that if he were to be extradited to Sweden on a sexual assault complaint, he could then also be extradited to the US to face charges over the leaks.

After the announcement, Wikileaks tweeted Mr Assange's thanks.

The site did not explicitly confirm whether Mr Assange would now agree to extradition, but in a further tweet several hours later, the site quoted Mr Assange's lawyer Melinda Taylor, who said, in relation to the 'deal': "Everything that he has said he's standing by."

Ms Taylor also published a brief statement from Mr Assange on Manning's pending release, saying he "welcomed President Obama's decision".

She should never have been convicted in the first place, Mr Assange said.

"Ms Manning is a hero, whose bravery should have been applauded not condemned. Journalists, publishers, and their sources serve the public interest and promote democracy by distributing authentic information on key matter such as human rights abuses, and illegal acts by government officials."

The US government should "immediately" end its war on whistleblowers, Mr Assange said.

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning's commutation and Assange's comments, Reuters reported.

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