PROFILE – Stirring the hornet's nest: Julian Assange

By Vakkas Dogantekin </p> <p>ANKARA (AA) – In a major turn of events, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will reportedly be expelled within &quot;hours to days&quot; from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had taken refuge since 2002, a high-level source within the Ecuadorian government allegedly told Wikileaks.</p> <p>The move came amid accusations by Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno that the group had been intercepting Moreno’s phone calls and private conversations.</p> <p>Tensions flared between WikiLeaks and the Ecuadorian government after the group recently alleged corruption within the Ecuadorian government.</p> <p>&quot;If President Moreno wants to illegally terminate a refugee publisher’s asylum to cover up an offshore corruption scandal, history will not be kind,&quot; WikiLeaks said in a statement, most likely after consultations with its founder.</p> <p>The Australian computer programmer has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 in an effort to avoid extradition to Sweden. From there, he could be sent to the United States, where he is wanted for leaking secret government and military information. </p> <p>Ecuador said last year it suspended Assange’s communication with the outside of the embassy after he published message critical of the British government.</p> <p>The South American nation said the measure was taken in response to a breach of an agreement Assange made with its government in 2017 not to publish messages that may be construed as meddling in the affairs of another state.</p> <p> </p> <p>- Assange, the Australian Internet activist</p> <p>Born Julian Paul Hawkins in 1971, Assange is an Australian computer programmer, political asylum-seeker, fugitive from British arrest and the founder of WikiLeaks.</p> <p>In 2006, Assange launched the Iceland-based website which described him as its &quot;heart and soul&quot;, founder, philosopher, spokesperson, organizer and financier.</p> <p>While some consider the controversial group a whistleblower, others say it is a media organization. </p> <p>In a 2013 resolution, the International Federation of Journalists called it a &quot;new breed of media organization&quot;.</p> <p>In a 2010 interview, Assange called it the endeavor of five full-time employees with 800 volunteers with no official headquarters.</p> <p>Assange considers WikiLeaks a &quot;protection intermediary&quot; while others argue that its legal status is complex.</p> <p>Rather than leaking directly to the press, whistleblowers can disclose information to WikiLeaks, which then reveals this information to the press for them, thus better protecting whistleblowers from exposure and retribution.</p> <p>The group mostly operates out of Sweden &quot;because it has one of the world's strongest laws to protect confidential source-journalist relationships,&quot; according to the group's website.

– Criticism

<p>Criticized for years for insufficiently curating its content and violating individuals’ personal privacy rights, WikiLeaks has revealed millions of documents that have included Social Security and credit card numbers, medical information and even the details of suicide attempts. </p> <p>More interestingly, it has come under fire for not utilizing its whistleblowing capabilities on issues sensitive to Russia.</p> <p>The U.S. Justice Department began a criminal investigation on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange after a 2010 leak of diplomatic cables provided by then American serviceman Chelsea Manning, known as the Cablegate. </p> <p>During Cablegate, WikiLeaks released more than 250,000 classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates, embassies, and diplomatic missions around the world from 1966 to 2010.</p> <p>They contained analyses from diplomatic personnel on foreign countries as well as their leaders and various officials.</p> <p>WikiLeaks also released emails and documents belonging to John Podesta, the manager of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>WikiLeaks is now considered a potential contributing factor to Clinton's loss to current U.S. President Donald Trump, as this leak struck a substantial dent in the former secretary of state’s election prospects.</p> <p>Swedish prosecutors have been investigating Assange on rape allegations by two women, and British authorities have issued an arrest warrant against him for purportedly jumping bail.</p> <p>Authorities in Sweden dropped the case in May, prompting Assange´s lawyers to declare his British arrest warrant has lost its function and purpose, though this appeal has since been rejected.</p> <p>Assange surrendered to U.K. police in late 2010 to avoid extradition to the U.S. but was released on bail within 10 days.</p> <p> </p> <p>He later breached his bail and fled.</p> <p>Assange has remained in Ecuador’s embassy in London ever since he was granted asylum in August 2012 by the country, which in late 2017 accepted Assange into its citizenship.</p> <p>Assange's story has been the subject of numerous films, documents and books, even as his dominance over the whistleblowing world continues.