WikiLeaks has a new top dog. Its contentious figurehead and founder, Julian Assange, will step aside, letting former WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson take the reins due to what WikiLeaks calls “extraordinary circumstances” that have seen Assange “held incommunicado.”
Assange created the organization in 2006 and has served as its editor-in-chief ever since. Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist, will take over, though he’s not new to leadership at WikiLeaks. In the past, Hrafnsson has “overseen certain legal projects for WikiLeaks” and it is believed that Assange has had less of a day to day role in its operations over time. Assange will remain involved as the organization’s publisher.
Assange remains holed up in London’s Ecuadorian embassy after first seeking refuge there in 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. Six months ago, the Ecuadorian government took actions that isolated Assange, cutting off his internet access and disallowing him from seeing visitors.
Assange reportedly has tension with Ecuador’s new president, Lenín Moreno, who apparently views him an unsavory problem inherited from the former administration. Moreno has suggested that he will maintain Assange’s status “as long as we assume his life may be in danger” — a statement that leaves some room for doubt about the WikiLeaks founder’s near future.