Assange launches WikiLeaks party in Australia

WikiLeaks party formed and leader will stand for senate seat despite being trapped in London

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 3:13am

Julian Assange yesterday formally started a political party bearing the name of his anti-secrecy organisation, WikiLeaks, and announced his own candidacy for a seat in the Australian senate.

Assange said he was confident in his ability to run a campaign from the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

He has been living there for more than a year so as not to face extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations.

"It's not unlike running the WikiLeaks organisation," he said. "We have people on every continent. We have to deal with over a dozen legal cases at once. However, it's nice to be politically engaged in my home country."

Assange, an Australian journalist and computer hacker who rose to prominence as an evangelist for government transparency and a critic of US foreign policy, is a polarising figure.

His supporters laud him as a hero for what they see as his dogged pursuit of government transparency.

However, prominent critics such as United States vice-president Joe Biden have referred to him as a "hi-tech terrorist" for what they call the reckless release of classified information.

Assange is perhaps best known for WikiLeaks' 2010 release of a massive trove of US diplomatic cables.

His supporters say the US and its allies have fabricated the sexual assault case against him in Sweden to hamper his ability to release further classified materials and punish him for those already released.

His party named six other candidates for the election.

"My plans are to essentially parachute in a crack troop of investigative journalists into the senate and to do what we have done with WikiLeaks, in holding banks and government and intelligence agencies to account," Assange said.

He said his experience running WikiLeaks had prepared him for a role in politics.

Assange would have to take his seat within one year of being elected, although the senate could grant him extension if he were unable to take his seat. The British government says it will arrest him if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy.

"There is, of course, some possibility that the Australian senate would permit remote involvement - it's never been done before, but it is theoretically possible," he said.