Julian Assange has revealed in an interview with Australian television that he's "not an idiot" and will not be handing himself over to US authorities unless certain conditions are met over his extradition beforehand.
Assange, holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for four and a half years now, famously said he would face extradition to the US if whistleblower Chelsea Manning received clemency. When outgoing US President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence on 17 January, which means Manning will serve only five more months, all eyes turned to Assange to see if he is going to stay true to his word.
During a televised interview with Australian news and current affairs programme, The Project, host Waleed Aly pushed Assange on what his intentions are it left the WikiLeaks chief slightly flustered and on the back foot.
When Aly asked: "What has to happen for you to leave the embassy?" Assange talked about having to "engage" with the US and talking to the DoJ (Department of Justice) to "see what they want to do next" and "under what circumstances I would be extradited to the United States".
Despite the US holding up its side of the gentleman's agreement by commuting Manning's sentence it seems Assange is stalling on his by looking for agreeable terms and conditions.
"When you said you would leave the embassy if Chelsea Manning was granted clemency it sounds like what you really meant is you will leave the embassy if you can come to terms with them about your case – nothing really to do with Chelsea Manning," Aly posed, which Assange denied saying.
When challenged further about how it looks like his extradition is "contingent on striking some kind of deal", Assange hit back with an outburst claiming he's "not an idiot!"
"I'm not a complete idiot! We had a major strategic victory in liberating Chelsea Manning – the most significant alleged whistleblower in the last 10 years – but of course saying I'm willing to accept extradition doesn't mean I'm saying, I'm willing to be a complete idiot and throw all my lawyers away. We're going to have a discussion with the DoJ about what that looks like, the ball is in their court."
Chelsea Manning, formerly a US Army Intelligence officer called Bradley Manning, went rogue and leaked approximately 720,000 documents containing classified military secrets to WikiLeaks. Manning was reported to authorities by confidante and former hacker Adrian Lamo, which led to Manning's arrest in 2010. Convicted of 17 of the 21 charges under the Espionage Act Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
However, in the interview Assange claimed Obama's decision to grant Manning clemency was all about getting back at him. "Let's look at it from their perspective: if we give Chelsea Manning clemency, what's the result? It's going to make life hard for Assange because either he's going to get extradited to the United States or it's going to show he's a liar," he said.