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Assange reverse-ferrets on promise to fly to US post-Manning clemency

WikiLeaker folds hand in pledge poker

By Iain Thomson, 20 Jan 2017

If US investigators were hoping WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange would be deliver himself into their hands, then they are due for a disappointment.

Last Thursday, WikiLeaks tweeted that the longest-staying guest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London would allow American prosecutors to extradite him if President Obama issued clemency for Chelsea Manning, who was serving a 35‑year sentence for leaking US state department cables and battlefield reports and video from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It must have looked like a safe bet, but Obama surprised many on Tuesday when he commuted Manning's sentence to time served, meaning that the former soldier will be free this May. So is Assange booking his flight to Washington? Not according to his lawyer.

"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," Barry Pollack, Assange's US-based attorney told The Hill.

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

Except he didn't. The exact words of the tweet requested clemency in exchange of his handover to Uncle Sam, but there was no mention of a timeline. A similar tweet made on September 15 last year also made no mention of a timeline, only that Manning be granted clemency.

In his last press conference, Obama made it clear that he was offering clemency to Manning. While she is guilty, Obama said, the sentence was disproportionate in his view. Obama denied the decision had anything to do with Assange.

"I don't pay a lot of attention to Mr Assange's tweets, so that wasn't a consideration in this instance," the president said. "And I'd refer you to the Justice Department for any criminal investigations, indictments, extradition issues that may come up with him."

However, there may still be a chance Assange will touch down in the Land of the FreeTM. The day after Assange's lawyer's comments, WikiLeaks made a further (occasionally misspelled) comment, saying Assange would come to the US under certain conditions.

So there is still some chance. But if you're a member of the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK, don't expect to get the spare bedroom back any time soon. ®

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