WikiLeaks has indicated that founder Julian Assange is ready to face extradition following Barack Obama’s decision to free a former soldier jailed for handing over classified documents to the anti-secrecy organisation.
The outgoing US president used his final hours in the White House to allow Chelsea Manning, who went to school in Wales, to go free nearly 30 years early.
The transgender former intelligence analyst, born Bradley Manning, said she had passed on government and military documents to raise awareness about the impact of war.
Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since the summer of 2012 for fear of being extradited to the US, praised campaigners for their role in the decision.
He said: “Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage and determination made the impossible possible.”
Manning’s planned release in May appears to pave the way for the Wikileaks founder’s self-imposed exile to come to an end.
The organisation last week tweeted: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (Department of Justice) case.”
Assange was interviewed in the embassy in November in the presence of prosecutors from Sweden, where he faces a sex allegation.
He denies the claims, but believes he faces extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy.
Melinda Taylor, a member of Assange’s legal team, insisted previous comments made about the implications of the Manning case still stand.
“Everything that he has said, he’s standing by,” she said.
WikiLeaks later tweeted: “Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama’s DoJ prevented public interest defence & fair jury.”
Another of Assange’s lawyers, Barry Pollack, said he had called on the DoJ to clarify his client’s “status” for several months.
“I hope it will soon,” he said. “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.”
The DoJ has not confirmed whether Assange faces an indictment and it is not clear if any charges have been put “under seal” – before a court sitting in secret.
But the department has acknowledged that the FBI is continuing to investigate the publication of sensitive information on WikiLeaks that was gleaned from Manning’s disclosures.
With the inauguration of Donald Trump just two days away any decision on Assange’s extradition will fall under his administration.
Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls/Files