Wednesday 25 January 2017

Julian Assange On Chelsea Manning Release 'To Make Life Hard' For Him

Julian Assange

Julian Assange has claimed that Barack Obama only granted clemency to Chelsea Manning to "make life hard for him".

One of Mr Obama's last acts as president was to commute Ms Manning's sentence, allowing her to be released in a matter of months rather than decades. The act was widely seen as a gesture of goodwill on the basis that Ms Manning was jailed for being a whistleblower.

But now Mr Assange has claimed that Mr Obama actually made the decision in spite of him. That was in reference to WikiLeaks' promise that if Ms Manning were granted clemency then Mr Assange would hand himself in to be extradited to the US – a claim that he initially appeared to be sticking by, then changed his mind on and then committed to again so long as he can come to an agreement with the Department of Justice.

“What’s the result?" he said in an interview with Australian current affairs programme The Project. "It is going to make life hard for Assange because either he will be extradited to the US or we will show him [to be] a liar. Therefore, it is OK to pardon Chelsea Manning – that’s what happened.”

It isn't clear whether or not the US justice department is actually looking to extradite Mr Assange, and it has not publicly brought charges against him. WikiLeaks claims that those charges have been brought in private and that if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy – where he has lived since summer 2012 – he will be taken there.

For the same reason he has refused to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where there is an allegation of rape that he denies. He says that an outstanding extradition order that would take him to Sweden would lead to him then being extradited to the US.

The White House has said that Mr Assange's promise to leave the embassy didn't have anything to do with Mr Obama's decision. But Mr Assange said that he had done so in order "to look tough".

“In the end, Barack Obama – wanting, I guess, to look tough – said that my offer had nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being granted clemency, so there is no quid pro quo,” he told the programme.

He also said that he had avoided mentioning his terms in the offer to leave – that he would require a deal with the US Department of Justice – because he's "not an idiot".

“We had a major strategic victory in liberating Chelsea Manning," he told the programme. "But, of course, saying I’m willing to accept extradition doesn’t mean I’m saying that I’m willing to be a complete idiot and throw all my lawyers away and so on.

“We are going to have a discussion with the DoJ about what that looks like. The ball is in their court.”

It remains unclear whether or not such a deal is actually on the table, or when and even whether Mr Assange will actually look to leave the embassy.



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