On Wednesday, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange backpedaled on his vow that he would accept extradition to the United States is President Obama granted whistleblower Chelsea Manning clemency. Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault allegations, is saying through his lawyers that he was really asking for an immediate pardon of the transgender ex-Army analyst and not just a commutation of his sentence like President Obama issued on Tuesday.
“There’s no question that what President Obama did is not what Assange was seeking,” said Wikileaks lawyer, Barry Pollack. “Mr. Assange was saying that Chelsea should never have been prosecuted, never have been sentenced to decades in prison, and should have been released immediately.”
Chelsea Manning was given a commutation by President Obama which would release him from prison on May 17, 2017.
“For many months, I have asked the DOJ to clarify Mr. Assange’s status. I hope it will soon,” Pollack in a statement on Tuesday. “The Department of Justice should not pursue any charges against Mr. Assange based on his publication of truthful information and should close its criminal investigation of him immediately.”
Another one of Assange’s lawyers, Melinda Taylor, told the Associated Press that the Wikileaks founder is not going back on his word.
“Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” Taylor said.
“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (US Department of Justice) case,” WikiLeaks tweeted on January 12.
Chelsea Manning was serving his seventh year of a 35 year sentence he received in 2010 for leaking about 700,000 classified and unclassified documents to Wikileaks. Manning announced the day after the sentencing that he no longer wished to be called “Bradley Manning” and instead “Chelsea Manning” because he was a transgender who had decided to live life as a female.
Manning’s requests to receive a sex change caused a lot of controversy and, due to his struggle with gender dysphoria and other mental illness while incarcerated in solitary confinement in an all male prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Manning attempted to commit suicide on two occasions.
The commutation relieved the Department of Defense from having to provide the sex reassignment surgery to Manning.