Activist / Internet Celebrity
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The WikiLeaks co-founder who hid out in the Ecuadorian embassy
Julian Assange is the controversial public face of WikiLeaks, an international website that gives whistleblowers an anonymous way to publish sensitive documents. Julian Assange is a former computer hacker and security specialist whose own personal history is sketchy: according to reports in The Guardian, his parents ran a touring theater troupe in Australia before divorcing, and Assange was married at 18 and had a son before his own marriage broke up. In 1991 he was arrested for computer hacking in Australia, eventually pleading guilty to 25 counts but paying only a fine. Late in 2006 he helped found WikiLeaks.org, a website which describes itself as a "an anonymous global avenue for disseminating documents the public should see." WikiLeaks has published leaked documents on hundreds of topics, including oil scandals in Peru, the Church of Scientology, climate research, the contents of a Sarah Palin email account, and procedures for the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. In April of 2010 it released Collateral Murder, leaked video of a deadly 2007 U.S. Army helicopter attack on Iraqi citizens, and in July of that year it released more than 92,000 documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. White-haired, secretive and nomadic, Julian Assange has lived long periods in Australia, Kenya, Sweden, and other countries. In August of 2010 he was accused of sexual assault by two women in Sweden. Swedish authorities investigated, then closed the investigation, then opened it again, and Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, saying he feared the threat of extradition and prosecution both from Sweden from the U.S. for espionage. Meanwhile, Wikileaks roiled the 2016 U.S. elections by publishing thousands of Hillary Clinton's emails, which helped lead to the election of Donald Trump. In May of 2017, the Swedish government formally dropped the sexual assault charges against Assange.
Julian Assange’s last name is pronounced AY-sanj… WikiLeaks is unrelated to Wikipedia, the popular open-source encyclopedia.