After Chelsea Manning clemency, all eyes on whether WikiLeaks’ Assange will agree to US extradition

Julian Assange speaks to the media from a balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain on Feb 5, 2016.
Julian Assange speaks to the media from a balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain on Feb 5, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Now that US President Barack Obama has commuted the sentence of army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, will WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange now hand himself over to be extradited to the US?

Last week, a tweet  on WikiLeaks’ Twitter account believed to be posted by Mr Assange said the WikiLeaks founder would agree to be extradited to the US if US President Barack Obama showed "clemency" to Ms Manning.

“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case,” the  tweet said.

Mr Assange,  an Australian, has been in self-imposed exile at the embassy for the past four years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges. 

He could also face possible espionage charges in the United States.

Mr Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentence to seven years, meaning Ms Manning will now be released on May 17.

WikiLeaks had been campaigning for the release of Ms Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years’ jail for  the biggest breach of classified materials in US history to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010.

A White House official said there was no connection between Ms Manning’s commutation and Mr Assange's promise to accept extradition if Ms Manning was freed, or renewed US government concern about WikiLeaks in last year’s presidential election.

Mr Assange has welcomed Mr Obama’s decision to show clemency  to Ms Manning, and called for an end to a “war on whistleblowers”.

“I welcome President Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of Ms Chelsea Manning from 35 years to time served,” Mr Assange said in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse by one of his lawyers.

“In order for democracy and the rule of law to thrive, the government should immediately end this war on whistleblowers, and publishers such as WikiLeaks and myself,” he added.

Mr Edward Snowden, the other prominent whistleblower also wanted by the US, tweeted: "Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama."