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Wikileaks: Assange offers to return to US ?

By The Citizen
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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange introduces M.I.A. via videolink from the Ecuadorian embassy in London at Terminal 5 on November 1, 2013 in New York City Taylor Hill/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will stand by his offer to go to the US now that Chelsea Manning is being released, he told a press conference.

Mr Assange had previously committed to hand himself in and face any possible extradition to the US, should outgoing US President Barack Obama offer clemency to Ms Manning. But when that happened, his lawyers suggested that he wouldn’t actually fulfil that commitment - arguing that Ms Manning wasn’t being released quickly enough.

Now Mr Assange has said that he will stand by the offer. He said that there will be 'many discussions' on his future before Ms Manning leaves prison in May.

It remains unclear whether or not the US would actually attempt to extradite Mr Assange. No official has suggested that such an order is in place, but members of Mr Assange's team have argued that it may be secret.

Asked why he was giving himself up to go to the US when there was no public charge or extradition order, Mr Assange said that he believed the government was behaving 'exactly as it would' if such an order was in place.

'There's either a deliberate attempt by the Department of Justice to keep me and WikiLeaks in a state of uncertainty, abusing the process for psychological gains and refusing to confirm or deny whether they have issued some request, but saying that the pending proceedings continue, or there is a sealed indictment and it is an offence for any official to reveal a sealed indictment,' he said.

Mr Assange did not comment on why he was only publicly offering to go to the US, and not to Sweden where he is also sought by authorities. He suggested that he would refuse to go to Sweden because he feared he would be extradited to the US, despite having committed to face that same extradition process.

He said that he had 'never been charged at any stage' and that he had been 'previously cleared' in relation to the same charges in Sweden. He also made reference to the UN claims that he was being wrongly detained inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

WikiLeaks and Mr Assange have moved closer to the US, and Donald Trump has approvingly quoted him in tweets. Asked during the press conference about Mr Trump, Mr Assange said that he didn’t agree with everything that the new President said, but that he thought he was being demonised by the press.

Asked whether he would receive different treatment from Mr Trump’s Department of Justice, Mr Assange said that it 'remains to be seen'.

The comments were made on a live audio stream that Mr Assange hosted on Periscope and posted onto the official WikiLeaks Twitter.

Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy since the summer of 2012, claiming that he fears that if he leaves he will be extradited to the US.

He 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 insists he faces extradition to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the embassy. – Independent UK.