Pressure is mounting on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to keep his pledge of agreeing to his US extradition if Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning received a pardon. Outgoing President Barack Obama commuted part of Manning's sentence on Tuesday (17 January 2017), meaning that the former US soldier is due for release in May.
Wikileaks had previously stated that Assange would be willing to be extradited to the US, where he is under investigation from the Department of Justice (DoJ) over a series of leaks of confidential information, "if Obama granted Manning clemency".
Despite the DoJ investigation, the US has not made an extradition request for Assange, who sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and has not left the residency since. The only country seeking extradition against Assange is Sweden, where he faces rape charges.
Assange has never agreed to be extradited to the Scandinavian country for fear of being handed over to the US authorities – something that Swedish officials have denied.
In a statement released following the news of the sentence commutation, Assange said: "Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning's clemency. Your courage and determination made the impossible possible."
Human-rights lawyer Melinda Taylor, who is part of Assange's legal team, tweeted a longer statement from Assange, welcoming the news but denouncing the legitimacy of Manning and other whistleblowers' arrests. "In order for democracy and the rule of law to thrive, the government should immediately end its war on whistleblowers and publishers, such as Wikileaks and myself," the statement read.
While Assange made no explicit reference to the extradition pledge, Taylor told the Associated Press: "Everything that he has said he's standing by."
Wikileaks celebrated the news of the presidential pardon on Twitter. "VICTORY: Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence from 35 years to 7. Release date now May 17".
Two hours later, a second Wikileaks tweet was issued, reading: "Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama's DoJ prevented public interest defense & fair jury."