Friday 20 January 2017

Julian Assange Is Willing To Travel To US After Manning Decision

Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he stands by his offer to travel to the US following Barack Obama’s decision to release whistleblower Chelsea Manning from prison.

Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London during a web broadcast on Thursday, Assange said there were many discussions about his future that could happen before Manning left prison in May, adding: “I have always been willing to go to the United States provided my rights are respected.”

Assange has been living in the embassy since claiming asylum there in 2012. He has refused to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he remains wanted on an allegation of rape, which he denies, and has repeatedly said he fears extradition to the US on espionage charges if he leaves the embassy. At the moment, the only public extradition ruling against him comes from Sweden.

WikiLeaks tweeted last week that Assange would agree to US extradition if Obama granted Manning clemency. Asked during a web broadcast on Thursday if he would now leave the embassy, Assange said: “I stand by everything I said, including the offer to go to the United States if Chelsea Manning’s sentence was commuted.”

Assange said there had been a seven-year-long attempt to build a prosecution against him and WikiLeaks in the US and his name was on several warrants and subpoenas. “As of this year, it is active and ongoing,” he said.

“If it takes me going to United States to somehow flush out this case and get the DoJ [Department of Justice] to either make a charge or extradition or to drop it, then we are interested in looking at that as well.”

He said it remained to be seen whether the DoJ under Donald Trump would treat his case differently from Obama’s administration.

The US justice department has never announced any indictment of Assange and it is not clear that any charges have been brought without becoming a matter of public record. The department, in refusing to turn over investigative documents sought by Manning under the Freedom of Information Act, has acknowledged that the FBI is continuing to investigate the publication of national security information on WikiLeaks arising from Manning’s disclosures.

The government’s refusal to confirm or deny the existence of charges is a “deliberate attempt by the Department of Justice to keep me and WikiLeaks in a state of uncertainty, abusing the process for psychological gains,” Assange said.

Earlier this week, the White House insisted that Assange’s offer to submit to extradition if Obama granted Manning clemency had no bearing on the US president’s action. “I have no insight into Mr Assange’s travel plans,” a White House official said. “I can’t speak to any charges or potential charges he may be facing from the justice department.”

Obama used his final hours in the White House to allow Manning to go free nearly 30 years early. The 29-year-old transgender former intelligence analyst in Iraq was sentenced in 2013 after a military court convicted her of passing more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks. She said she did so to raise awareness about the impact of war.

During Thursday’s web broadcast, Assange said Trump’s impact on global relations was “very interesting” adding: “His behaviour is [that of] someone who’s not a diplomat at all, making inflammatory statements about what he really thinks … From WikiLeaks’ perspective, we like to see this churn and invigoration and everything being reconsidered.”



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