Following President Barack Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for leaking US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange has agreed to leave asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy he’s been holed up in since 2012.
Chelsea Manning was found guilty of one of the largest breaches of classified information in US history, including footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad amongst the 700,000 secret diplomatic and military documents and video.
She was sentenced to 35 years, due for release in 2045, but President Obama has reduced her sentence so that she only needs to serve time until 17 May 2017.
Manning was one of the 209 individuals who Obama commuted their sentences.
WikiLeaks said in September 2016 that Assange would agree to being extradited to the US if Manning was allowed to go free.
The White House said Manning's commutation had not been influenced in any way by Mr Assange's offer, and the US justice department has not indicted Mr Assange nor publicly sought his extradition.
He is wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities (where he first went after fleeing the US) in relation to an alleged rape, which he denies.
While Assange himself hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll be on his way to America any time soon, he did tweet:
Assange: "Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning's clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible."— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 17, 2017
His lawyer, however has said: “Everything that he has said he’s standing by” and WikiLeaks seemed to also indicate their man was ready to hand himself over:
Meanwhile the White House has denied that Assange’s promise had anything to do with Obama’s decision.
It’s still unclear how the handover may happen as the US Department of Justice has never announced an indictment of Assange.
But given that WikiLeaks played a central role in the US election by publishing private emails from Clinton’s campaign manager, which added to the events that led to Trump’s election, the president-to-be may look favourably upon him. Call him a great guy, great friend and pardon him.
Trump has previously - you guessed it - tweeted:
Julian Assange said "a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta" - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Many have taken those words as sympathy toward Assange but Trump has said that he just thinks people should “make up their own minds.”
We’ll see how long that lasts when something inevitably comes out against him.