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'Incommunicado' Assange anoints new WikiLeaks editor in chief

Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson takes the reins

Julian Assange has stepped down and named one of his former mouthpieces as WikiLeaks' new editor-in-chief.

"Due to the extraordinary circumstances where Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been held incommunicado (except for visits by his lawyers) for six months while arbitrarily detained in the Ecuadorian embassy," said a statement posted on the leak-happy group's Twitter account, "Mr Assange has appointed Kristinn Hrafnsson [as] editor in chief of WikiLeaks."

It was not immediately obvious how a man supposedly being held incommunicado had managed to tell others whom he wanted to succeed him. Nonetheless, he is said to remain as WikiLeaks' publisher for now.

Hrafnsson is an Icelandic journalist best known for having been a WikiLeaks spokesman for six years.

"I condemn the treatment of Julian Assange that leads to my new role," said Hrafnsson's canned statement, also posted on Twitter, "but I welcome the new responsibility to secure the continuation of the important work based on WikiLeaks ideals."

The Register is unable to reach old Jules himself for comment because Ecuador changed its Wi-Fi password several months ago and didn't tell Assange what the new one was. It also reportedly installed a jamming device to stop him from piggybacking on the nearby Prets, worse luck.

WikiLeaks itself first came to global attention through its publication, in searchable format, of stolen American diplomatic cables. The site generally published leaked information from governments that painted them in a bad light, sometimes justifiably so.

Onlookers will be well aware that Assange has been hiding from various forms of justice in Ecuador's London embassy since 2012. Originally he fled to avoid extradition to Sweden, on what he claimed were trumped-up charges of sexual assault invented to have him sent to Sweden and from there, legally or otherwise, onwards to the US. Those charges have since passed the statute of limitations' deadline in Sweden and are no longer being pursued. However, he is still wanted by British authorities for jumping bail when he entered the embassy – a crime that carries a maximum sentence of six months.

Since a recent change of government, Ecuador wants its embassy's broom cupboard back from Assange. Various schemes involving the awarding of diplomatic status to Assange failed when Britain refused to recognise him as an Ecuadorean diplomat, though president Lenin Moreno has said he is still talking to the UK about legal ways of ousting the fugitive. ®

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