Assange furious as autobiography hits shelves

22nd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange condemned an unauthorised autobiography as it hit the shelves in Britain on Thursday, after he failed to prevent the publisher printing an unfinished manuscript.

"Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography" contains the Australian former computer hacker's first direct comments on the allegations of rape which have left him fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden.

British publisher Canongate said the book was a first draft delivered to them in March 2011. They admitted Assange had tried to stop its publication, but said they were proud to publish the "passionate, provocative and opinionated" book.

But in a lengthy statement issued late Wednesday, Assange condemned the move and said Canongate had acted in breach of contract and of personal assurances from the publisher that it would not publish.

"This book was meant to be about my life's struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else," the 40-year-old said.

"The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information. They are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity -- screwing people over to make a buck."

Although Assange accepted that the book was based on conversations he had with ghost writer Andrew O'Hagan, he said it was a "entirely uncorrected or fact-checked by me" and said O'Hagan had not seen the final edit.

Assange agreed to publish his life's story in December 2010 after being released on bail in Britain following his arrest on a European warrant over the allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women in Sweden.

He tried to cancel the deal in June, but Canongate, a small Scottish firm that beat larger rivals to sign the original deal, said: "He had already signed his advance over to his lawyers to settle his legal bills.

"We have decided to honour that contract and to publish. Once the advance has been earned out, we will continue to honour the contract and pay Julian royalties."

Assange said he was currently in a dispute with his lawyers over fees, adding that he was so short of cash he could not afford to block publication of the autobiography through the British courts.

Canongate said the book is the result of more than 50 hours of interviews by Assange at a friend's country house in eastern England where he is living under strict bail conditions until a court decides on his extradition.

"We disagree with Julian's assessment of the book. We believe it explains both the man and his work, underlining his commitment to the truth," the firm said.

In the book, Assange repeats his denial of the rape allegations and his suggestion that they may have been politically motivated because of the disclosure by WikiLeaks of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

"I did not rape those women and cannot imagine anything that happened between us that would make them think so, except malice after the fact, a joint plan to entrap me, or a terrifying misunderstanding that was stoked up between them," he wrote.

"I may be a chauvinistic pig of some sort but I am no rapist, and only a distorted version of sexual poiltics could attempt to turn me into one.

"They each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterwards. That is all."

He also explained that as he arrived in Sweden, he was informed by an unnamed intelligence source that the United States was planning to set him up for the release of the diplomatic cables, many of which proved highly embarrassing.

The book also features diatribes against Britain's The Guardian and the New York Times, WikiLeaks' former partners in the release of documents.

© 2011 AFP

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