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Assange might stay put despite earlier extradition promise, lawyer suggests

Reaction and analysis on 'The Five'

 

Julian Assange headed to U.S. soil? Not so fast, his lawyer says.

Barry Pollack, the WikiLeaks founder’s U.S.-based attorney, told The Hill in an email that President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence Tuesday doesn’t meet the conditions of Assange’s extradition offer.

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“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,” Pollack wrote. “Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.”

Obama announced that Manning would be released May 17, cutting her sentence for leaking classified government and military documents by almost 30 years. She attempted suicide twice last year, her lawyers have said.

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Assange first offered in September to trade extradition to the U.S. – where his legal team believes he may be charged – for a pardon for Manning, The Hill reported. WikiLeaks’ Twitter account then posted Thursday that “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.”

Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than four years to avoid extradition to Sweden in a sex crime case. He has refused to travel to Sweden, saying he fears being extradited to the U.S. over his involvement in publishinga slew of classified documents.

Assange on Tuesday demanded that the U.S. government "should immediately end its war on whistleblowers and publishers, such as WikiLeaks and myself."

Another one of Assange’s lawyers, Melinda Taylor, suggested Tuesday that he wouldn't go back on his word. "Everything that he has said he's standing by," she said in a brief telephone conversation with The Associated Press.

She added that WikiLeaks had yet to learn from U.S. and British authorities whether the American government had requested Assange's extradition to the United States.

Pollack said he asked the U.S. Justice Department to clarify Assange's status.

"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," Pollack told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.