A fearless campaigner for democratic openness? Or a legal making an attempt to keep away from justice? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a extremely polarising determine.
Australian nationwide Assange, 49, is the figurehead of the whistleblowing web site that uncovered authorities secrets and techniques worldwide, notably the explosive leak of US army and diplomatic recordsdata associated to the Iraq and Afghan wars.
However he has spent a lot of the previous decade both in custody or holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy as he has tried to keep away from extradition — first to Sweden to reply allegations of rape, after which to america.
Born in Townsville, Queensland, in 1971, Assange has described a nomadic childhood and claims to have attended 37 faculties earlier than settling in Melbourne.
As a young person, Assange found a expertise for pc hacking, which quickly introduced him to the eye of Australian police.
He admitted a lot of the prices levelled in opposition to him and walked away with a tremendous.
After launching WikiLeaks in 2006 with a gaggle of like-minded activists and IT consultants, he was continuously on the transfer, bouncing between cities and steadily altering his telephone quantity.
“We’re creating a brand new commonplace for a free press,” Assange advised AFP in an interview in August 2010.
– Embassy asylum –
His present authorized saga started in 2010 — quickly after he printed revelations from categorized paperwork about US army campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — with rape allegations in Sweden, which he at all times denied.
He was in Britain on the time however dodged an try to extradite him to Sweden by claiming political asylum within the Ecuador embassy.
For seven years he lived in a small condo within the embassy, exercising on a treadmill and utilizing a solar lamp to make up for the dearth of pure gentle in a scenario he in comparison with dwelling in an area station.
It was revealed in April that Assange had fathered two kids together with his accomplice, South Africa-born lawyer Stella Moris, whereas on the embassy.
Moris, 37, advised The Instances newspaper in an interview printed on Saturday that she knowledgeable Assange she was pregnant with Gabriel, now three, by writing it down on a chunk of paper to keep away from surveillance.
He watched the start on livestream and the newborn was smuggled into the embassy with the assistance of an actor pal posing as his father, she mentioned.
– ‘Palms-on father’ –
Moris described Assange as somebody who “loves kids” and a “hands-on father”, who speaks to his sons recurrently, though to his youngest, Max, now aged 18 months, he’s a “disembodied voice on the telephone”.
Assange has an grownup son, Daniel, who was born close to Melbourne in 1980, and not less than yet one more youngster, who was dwelling in France.
Moris, who modified her identify from Sara Gonzalez Devant for safety causes after getting concerned with Assange, mentioned the couple deliberate to marry and he proposed utilizing a virtual-reality headset.
Assange’s scenario modified after the brand new authorities in Quito turned him over to British police in April 2019. He was arrested for leaping bail and jailed.
Swedish prosecutors confirmed final yr that they had dropped the rape investigation, saying that regardless of a “credible” account from the alleged sufferer there was inadequate proof to proceed.
However as he had feared, after his arrest it was revealed that Washington was charging him with violating the US Espionage Act over the 2010 leaks.
– Ties with Russia? –
Assange was initially supported by human rights teams and newspapers that after labored with him to edit and publish US warfare logs.
They included a leaked video displaying a US army Apache helicopter firing on and killing two journalists and a number of other Iraqi civilians on a Baghdad avenue in 2007.
However many had been horrified when WikiLeaks dumped unredacted paperwork on-line, together with the names of informants, and Assange fell out spectacularly with erstwhile media companions comparable to The New York Instances and The Guardian newspaper.
Questions additionally mounted about his relationship with Russia.
Particular prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into interference within the 2016 US presidential election discovered that Russians hacked Democrat Hillary Clinton’s marketing campaign, “and publicly disseminated these supplies via numerous intermediaries, together with WikiLeaks”.
In a preliminary courtroom listening to in London in February, Assange’s lawyer alleged US President Donald Trump had promised a pardon if he denied that Russia leaked the emails that so broken Clinton.
The White Home denied the declare and Trump — who in 2016 declared his “love” for WikiLeaks — has at all times angrily rejected allegations that his marketing campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
Associated: Julian Assange: A Decade of Gorgeous Leaks of U.S. Secrets and techniques