LONDON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up at Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, said on Thursday he stood by his offer to be extradited to the United States providing his rights were protected.
Assange said last week he would accept extradition if former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning were freed and on Wednesday U.S. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence, meaning she will be released in May.
“I stand by everything I said including the offer to go to the United States if Chelsea Manning’s sentence was commuted,” Assange said in a live online audio news conference. “It’s not going to be commuted (until) May. We can have many discussions to that point.”
Obama said Manning, who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to Assange’s anti-secrecy group, the biggest such breach in U.S. history, had served a tough prison term and that justice had been served.
However, he denied that the commutation was granted because of Assange’s offer.
Manning, formerly known as U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.
Asked by Reuters if he would hand now hand himself over to the authorities, Assange, 45, who fled to the Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape, said there was no change in his position.
He said U.S. authorities should drop their case against him or unseal their charges against him.
“We look forward to having a conversation with the DoJ (Department of Justice) about what the correct way forward is,” he said.
“I’ve always been willing to go to the United States provided my rights are respected because this is a case that should never have occurred,” Assange added, saying he was confident of winning any case brought against him.
(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho and Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)