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Julian Assange’s lawyer has insisted that the WikiLeaks founder, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden over an allegation of rape, is “standing by” his promise to—as he characterises it—”agree to US extradition” in light of president Obama’s decision to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
However, no such US extradition ruling against Assange currently exists.
For Assange to be extradited to the US, it would have to be signed off by authorities in Sweden and the UK, but no such request has been made.
Assange has been holed up in cramped conditions at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012. He skipped bail after a European Arrest Warrant was issued in late 2010 by Scotland Yard cops on behalf of Swedish officials who sought the extradition of the 45-year-old Australian.
Assange lawyer @themtchair on Assange-Manning extradition ‘deal’: “Everything that he has said he’s standing by.”
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 18, 2017
On Tuesday, Obama—in one of his final acts as president—commuted the sentence of Manning.
The US army private was originally sentenced to serve a 35-year term for leaking a cache of classified military documents to WikiLeaks, but she will now be released in May.
Last September, WikiLeaks tweeted: “If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange—despite its clear unlawfulness.”
On January 12, a similar tweet appeared.
It said: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ [Department of Justice] case.”
Following Manning’s commutation of sentence, Assange was mocked on Twitter, with many calling on him to pack his bags and leave Flat 3B, No. 3, Hans Crescent—the Ecuadorian embassy’s address in Knightsbridge, London.
However, because the WikiLeaks chief breached his bail conditions back in 2012, it’s highly likely that Assange will be arrested by Met police if and when he steps outside the embassy.
In 2015, Scotland Yard said that it was ending round-the-clock “physical presence” of officers camped outside the embassy, but added that the Met would “make every effort to arrest” Assange.
In September last year, a Swedish court upheld an earlier decision to maintain its European Arrest Warrant against him.
Assange, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, initially sought political asylum nearly five years ago, after he was wanted for questioning over rape, coercion, and two counts of sexual molestation accusations brought against him by two women in Sweden.
The allegations surfaced after Assange visited the country in August 2010 to give a lecture.
Swedish officials confirmed in 2015 that they would no longer be seeking answers from Assange over allegations of sexual molestation and coercion, due to a law of limitation that requires the cops to charge a suspect within a certain timeframe.
But the more serious allegation of rape remains in place until 2020.
Assange has claimed that he would be extradited to the US to face espionage charges if he does leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
On Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollock said:
Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning serve the public interest.
She should never have been prosecuted and sentenced to decades in prison.
She should be released immediately. Likewise, publishers of truthful information serve the public interest, promote democracy, and should not be prosecuted.
The war on whistleblowers should end now and should not be continued in the new administration [under Donald Trump].
For many months, I have asked the DoJ to clarify Assange’s status.
I hope it will soon.
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.
WikiLeaks also appeared to infer that Assange will receive better treatment from Trump.
It tweeted: “Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama’s DoJ prevented public interest defence & fair jury.”
Ars sought comment from the Met on whether Assange would be re-arrested under section 7 of the Bail Act for breaching the terms of his bail, if he does indeed leave the embassy.
A spokesperson at Scotland Yard said: “We couldn’t possibly speculate.”
This post originated on Ars Technica UK