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WikiLeaks lawyer indicates Julian Assange will not leave Ecuadorian embassy

International Business Times logo International Business Times 18/01/2017 Jason Murdock
© Provided by IBT Media (UK)

The US-based legal representative for Julian Assange has indicated the fugitive will not be leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London — where he has been holed up for almost five years — any time soon, claiming the move by US president Barack Obama to grant Chelsea Manning clemency was "well short" of his previous extradition offer.

Previously, Assange, who founded the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, said that if Obama were to fully pardon Manning he would hand himself over to authorities to be extradited to the US, where he believes he is wanted for his role in leaking US government secrets.

On 12 January, WikiLeaks tweeted to its 4.2million followers: "If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case."

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After Manning's sentence was reduced by Obama, all eyes turned to London to see if the WikiLeaks founder would fulfil his apparent promise to hand himself over to police.

Yet on Wednesday (18 January), Barry Pollack, his attorney, told The Hill: "Mr Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought.

"Mr Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately."

The WikiLeaks founder is yet to comment personally on the extradition plans, however a series of tweets from a separate legal representative only worked to complicate matters. Lawyer Melinda Taylor, who is also part of Assange's legal team, told AP: "Everything that he has said he's standing by."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks © BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks

Then WikiLeaks' official Twitter account also suggested its founder was planning to exit the embassy: "Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama's DoJ prevented public interest defense & fair jury," it tweeted.

Later, the same account added: "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."

In a statement, a White House official told The Guardian: "The president's decision to offer commutation was not influenced by public comments by Mr Assange or the WikiLeaks organisation. 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."

Assange has long believed that if he travels to Sweden, where is wanted for questioning over rape allegations, he will be extradited to the US to face trial.

In a statement via his legal team, Assange said: "I welcome President Obama's decision to commute the sentence of Ms Chelsea Manning from 35 years to time served, but Ms Manning should never have been convicted in the first place.

"Ms Manning is a hero, whose bravery should have been applauded not condemned. In order for democracy and the rule of law to thrive, the government should immediately end its war on whistleblowers and publishers, such as WikiLeaks and myself."

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