Kristinn Hrafnsson replaces Julian Assange as WikiLeaks editor-in-chief

September 27, 2018

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a former spokesman for WikiLeaks, will replace founder and publisher Julian Assange as the website’s editor-in-chief, the antisecrecy organization announced Wednesday.

WikiLeaks said in a statement that the “extraordinary circumstances” involving Mr. Assange’s residency within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London have prompted him to appoint Mr. Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist and longtime collaborator, to succeed him as the site’s leading editor.

“I condemn the treatment of Julian Assange that leads to my new role, but I welcome the responsibility to secure the continuation of the important work based on WikiLeaks ideals,” Mr. Hrafnsson, 56, said in a statement circulated by the group’s Twitter account.

Mr. Hrafnsson did not immediately return messages seeking further comment.

A former newspaper reporter and broadcast journalist, Mr. Hrafnsson joined WikiLeaks in 2010 and was involved in its release that April of the so-called “Collateral Murder” video leaked Army footage that showed a U.S. airstrike killing Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters war correspondence. He subsequently served as the group’s spokesperson through 2016, when his exit was reported in the aftermath of WikiLeaks releasing a trove of internal Democratic Party documents during the U.S. presidential race.

“Being on the road for six years gets pretty tiring,” Mr. Hrafnsson previously said respect to relinquishing the spokesman role.

Mr. Assange, meanwhile, has spent the last six years in the same place to wit, Ecuador’s embassy in London in lieu of risking arrest upon exiting and the possibility of being extradited abroad and put on trial for leaking U.S. state secrets.

A 47-year-old Australian native, Mr. Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador within weeks of entering its embassy in July 2012. British authorities have issued a warrant for his arrest, however, effectively creating an international impasse currently involving no fewer than four countries including the U.S., where both WikiLeaks and its publisher remain the subject of an ongoing Justice Department investigation.

More recently, Mr. Assange oversaw the release of internal Democratic Party and CIA documents in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Ecuador severed his internet access in March and blocked him from receiving visitors other than lawyers, however, effectively silencing the publisher for most of 2018 and ultimately prompting his appointment of Mr. Hrafnsson as editor-in-chief.

Mr. Assange will remain publisher of WikiLeaks, the group said.

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