WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange said on Thursday that he stands by “everything” he said, including his offer to be extradited to the U.S.
In an audio press conference live-streamed on Periscope on Thursday afternoon, Assange said, “I stand by everything I said including the offer to go to the United States if Chelsea Manning’s sentence was commuted.”
Last week, Assange raised eyebrows across the internet when he appeared to offer himself up as a kind of swap for Manning, a transgender soldier who is more than six years into a 35-year sentence for leaking classified government and military documents to WikiLeaks.
“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to U.S. extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case,” WikiLeaks said, apparently referring to the U.S. Department of Justice’s continuing investigation into the radical transparency website.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, and she is now expected to be released in May. But Assange retreated from his pledge, arguing via his lawyers that what he was really asking for was an immediate pardon for the ex-Army analyst.
“There’s no question that what President Obama did is not what Assange was seeking,” said Barry Pollack, who represents the WikiLeaks chief in the United States. “Mr. Assange was saying that Chelsea should never have been prosecuted, never have been sentenced to decades in prison, and should have been released immediately.”
Then on Thursday, Assange said he’s “always been willing to go to the United States provided that my rights are respected because this is a case that should never have occurred.”
“We look forward to having a conversation with the DoJ about what the correct way forward is,” he said. “We say of course that they should immediately drop their case or they should unseal their extradition request, if they have one, unseal their charges, if they have one.”
He added: “I’m confident about winning any U.S. case that is respecting the law in the United States, because Wikileaks is a publisher and as a publisher our activities are protected by the First Amendment.”
Assange has spent more than four years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, refusing to meet prosecutors in Sweden, where he’s wanted on a rape allegation. He has feared he would be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges if he leaves the embassy.
Regarding Manning, Assange said on Thursday, “We are very, very happy” that she received clemency.
“It’s a major strategic victory to have achieved that, both for Chelsea Manning and everything that she has had to suffer over the last seven years,” he said.
Manning, whose name was Bradley at the time of her arrest in 2010, worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. She was convicted in 2013 in military court of six violations of the Espionage Act and 14 other offenses for providing to WikiLeaks more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents, as well as battlefield videos.