- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump is being urged to give a pass to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange after his antisecrecy website revealed the inner workings of Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton during the run up to this year’s White House race.

Mr. Trump isn’t slated to start his presidency for more than another two months, but is already being pressured to pardon Mr. Assange upon taking the oath of office.

An internet petition calling on Mr. Trump to pardon the WikiLeaks publisher garnered more than 10,000 digital signatures since being posted to Change.org this week, and a similar plea has been made by an elected official from Mr. Assange’s native Australia, Sen. Pauline Hanson, the leader of a right-wing populating party.

According to the Change.org petition, Mr. Assange is a “hero” who “has been persecuted and harried by the very people he has sought to expose for their lies and deceptions against the people of the world.”

Ms. Hanson, meanwhile, issued a statement Friday saying she’ll work with the Trump administration towards securing immediate release of Mr. Assange, an “Australian citizen and political prisoner.”

“I hope that in light of his great service towards freedom and truth President Elect Donald Trump will consider granting a full presidential pardon,” she wrote.

Mr. Assange, 45, has not been formally charged in the United States. Since at least 2010, however, he and his website have been the subject of several U.S. federal investigations resulting from their publication of classified U.S. government documents.

British authorities have been instructed to act upon a Swedish arrest warrant if Mr. Assange exits the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his residence since 2012 when he was granted political asylum from Quito. Prosecutors in Stockholm want to interrogate Mr. Assange with respect to rape allegations dating back to 2010, but the publisher said he fears traveling there will inevitable lend to his extradition to the United States and subsequent imprisonment.

While WikiLeaks initially drew ire from the U.S. government for publishing stolen Pentagon and State Department supplied by a former Army intelligence analyst in 2010, the Obama administration more recently condemned the website upon releasing privileged communications purportedly obtained as a result of a state-sponsored hacking operation masterminded by Russia.

Chelsea Manning, the Army analyst who supplied the military and diplomatic documents, is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mr. Assange said previously that he’d turn himself in to U.S. authorities in exchange for the White House granting Manning clemency.

Amid calls for Mr. Trump to pardon its publisher, WikiLeaks tweeted Friday that President Obama should consider beating him to the punch with respect to both Mr. Assange and his website’s most well-known source.

“President Obama has a political moment to pardon Manning & Snowden. If not, he hands a Trump presidency the freedom to take his prize,” WikiLeaks tweeted.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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