Trump offered to pardon WikiLeaks founder Assange, court hears

Amnesty conditional on saying no Russian role in publishing Democratic Party emails

Julian Assange appeared relaxed in court and spent much of the hearing reading notes in his lap. File photograph: PA

Julian Assange appeared relaxed in court and spent much of the hearing reading notes in his lap. File photograph: PA

 

US president Donald Trump offered to pardon WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he said that Russia had nothing to do with WikiLeaks’ publication of Democratic Party emails in 2016, a London court heard on Wednesday.

Mr Assange appeared by videolink from prison as lawyers discussed the management of his hearing next week to decide whether he should be extradited to the United States.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Mr Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald, referred to a witness statement by former US Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher who had visited Mr Assange in 2017, saying that he had been sent by the president to offer a pardon.

The pardon would come on the condition that Assange complied with the US by saying that the Russians were not involved in the email leak that hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, Mr Rohrabacher’s statement said.

Mr Assange (48) who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy before he was dragged out last April, is wanted in the United States to face 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades behind bars if convicted there.

Almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret US documents, Woolwich Crown Court in London will begin hearings on Monday – with Mr Assange present in person – to decide whether he should be sent to the United States.

Global headlines

At Wednesday’s hearing, he spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

He appeared relaxed and spent much of the hearing reading notes in his lap.

Australian-born Mr Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

WikiLeaks later angered the United States by publishing caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.

The full extradition hearing will be split in two parts, with the second half delayed until May. – Reuters