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WikiLeaks Founder Clarifies Pledge To Accept U.S. Extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on January 17 appeared to clarify his pledge to accept U.S. extradition now that President Barack Obama has pardoned former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Melinda Taylor, who serves on Assange's legal team, initially told the Associated Press he would stick to his offer last week to accept extradition if the White House granted clemency to Manning, who was imprisoned for the biggest leak of classified materials in U.S. history to WikiLeaks in 2010.

But Taylor later told AP and AFP that Assange would like the U.S. Justice Department instead to announce it will not pursue charges against him and is closing its investigation of WikiLeaks and ending its "war on whistle-blowers."

Assange has been living at Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual-assault charges. He says he has long feared if he leaves the embassy he could be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges, although no formal charges have been filed against him.

WikiLeaks and Assange have been under investigation for years for publishing thousands of highly sensitive leaked documents from the United States.

In particular, WikiLeaks is under FBI investigation for its central role last year in an alleged Russian scheme to influence the U.S presidential election through the hacking and publishing of internal Democratic e-mails.

The White House, in shaving more than 30 years off Manning's prison sentence and ending her sentence on May 17, said it was not influenced by Assange's offer to come forward when it made the decision to pardon Manning.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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