The WikiLeaks founder, who has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over four years, had hinted he was willing to turn himself in if Chelsea Manning was released.
However, with Manning’s sentence now commuted, one of Barack Obama’s final acts in office, Assange has now demanded a deal is struck with the US Justice Department before he leaves London. [and why not? so many others have had to deal with these characters to get some semblance of normality to their outrageous targeting, and Assange hasn't even been charged with anything, despite what the gutterpress and other dubious outlets make things seem, including, very much, the Swedish government!...ed.]
The 45-year-old Australian was asked on Channel 10 whether he stood by his offer or not.
Anchor Waleed Aly said: “So 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.”
Assange denied claiming he would leave the embassy if Manning, who leaked classified material to WikiLeaks, was released.
Interrupting Aly he said: “I didn’t say that, I didn’t say that.
“I said I would accept extradition to the United States.”
Aly replied: “I don’t understand why now it seems contingent on striking some kind of deal with the United States about their case against you, you didn’t mention that before.
“Because I’m not an idiot! I’m not a complete idiot!” Assange exclaimed.
“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.”
Assange also alleged President Obama had only granted Manning clemency to “make life hard for him”.
The White House said that Assange’s offer to hand himself in did not influence the pardoning of Manning.
However, Assange said: “In the end Barack Obama – wanting, I guess, to look tough – said that my offer had nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being granted clemency, so there is no quid pro quo.”
“What is the result? It is going to make life hard for Assange because either he will be extradited to the US or we will show him to be a liar.
“Therefore, it is OK to pardon Chelsea Manning – that’s what happened.”
WikiLeaks tweeted last week: “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ (Department of Justice) case.”
Asked whether he will now leave the embassy, Assange said: “I stand by everything I said, including the offer to go to the United States if Chelsea Manning”s sentence was commuted.
“It is not going to be commuted until May – we can have many discussions to that point.
“I have always been willing to go to the United States provided my rights are respected.”
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy, located close to Harrods in Knightsbridge, in June 2012 after a series of legal challenges following an arrest warrant issued by Sweden.
He is wanted for questioning over complaints of sexual assault by two women in 2010 but fears he could be extradited to the US to answer for WikiLeaks’ publishing of sensitive government files and communications.