Julian Assange breaks pledge to leave Ecuadorean embassy if Chelsea Manning was pardoned

The Wikileaks founder may still go to the US – but only if a deal can be brokered

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has broken his pledge to travel to the United States if whistleblower Chelsea Manning was pardoned. 

He said would only go only if he receives assurances from the US Department of Justice about what – if any – charges he would face.

The Australian computer programmer took sanctuary in London’s Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been questioned on allegations of rape.

Julian Assange will leave London's Ecuadorean embassy

He fears the Scandinavian country would then extradite him to the US on what he calls “politically motivated” espionage charges.

After Wikileaks released material leaked by former soldier Ms Manning – which included documents related to the Iraq war – US authorities began investigating Mr Assange.

Mr Assange said last September that he would surrender to US authorities if Ms Manning was pardoned by Barack Obama – something the former President effectively granted in his final days in office by commuting the sentence from 35 years to just over seven years, the majority of which Manning had already served.

MAssange said his lawyers had contacted the US Department of Justice to see if a deal could be done when he was asked about the matter on ITV’s The Peston Show. 

He said: “We have approached the Department of Justice. We haven’t heard back from them. The ball is in their court. If settling the matter involves going to the US when my rights are protected, then that is something we can discuss.”

Questioned about the role that the whistleblowing website played in the outcome of the US election after it released thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr Assange said that Wikileaks had merely published “the authentic words” of the Democratic presidential candidate and her campaign staff.

He said: “People read what she had said and didn’t like it. They didn’t like how she had rigged the election in the primaries against Bernie Sanders.”

Put to him that he had helped propel Mr Trump into the White House, Mr Assange said that Wikileaks had not told people how to interpret the emails or how to vote.

“This was a matter for the American people. If the American people decided they prefer Donald Trump then that is up to them,” he said.

He denied Russian hacking played any part in obtaining the Clinton emails.

“We use a variety of sources. I am one hundred per cent certain this is not material obtained by Russia,” he said.

He added that Wikileaks had called for Mr Trump to publish his tax returns “three times during the election and twice again after”.

Mr Assange disputed the suggestion that Mr Trump wanted to shut down journalism following his repeated outbursts attacking “fake news”.

He said: “Trump has not been hostile to news organisations, he has been hostile to their accuracy. We understand the partisan nature of journalism is coming to the fore.”