Assange fails to block biography

The autobiography of Julian Assange is published today despite attempts by the WikiLeaks founder to suppress it after a bitter row with the publisher.

In the manuscript Assange addresses for the first time the events that forced him into a costly extradition battle over allegations that he sexually abused two women during a stay in Stockholm last year.

It appears despite his decision this year to withdraw his co-operation.

After protracted efforts to secure either his consent to publication or the return of an advance worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, his publisher, Canongate, has decided to go ahead.

The book offers a deeply personal insight into a man who, in less than a year, went from being an obscure former hacker to one of the world's most recognisable faces thanks to his organisation's explosive revelations. A whole chapter is devoted to explaining his side of the Swedish story.

"I have kept my own counsel about the matter until now," he writes. "It will be difficult to keep anger out of this account, owing to the sheer level of malice and opportunism that has driven the case against me."

According to the book Assange had been warned that the US Government wanted to set him up. He admits to sleeping with two women but says their allegations that some of the encounters were not consensual are either part of a conspiracy or motivated by his failure to return their calls.

Elsewhere the memoir paints a vivid portrait of a driven but mercurial idealist bent on moulding the world in his own belief of absolute transparency.

The book also contains bitter rants against his media partners, particularly the New York Times and the Guardian.

But it is his account of his time in Sweden that will draw most attention.

"The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn't paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back," he states. "One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this."

Assange yesterday lashed out at Canongate for releasing drafts without his approval, saying he did not authorise the book or get the opportunity to check it. He accused the publisher of "profiteering from an unfinished and erroneous draft".

"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."

According to Assange, he did not give a copy of the 70,000-word manuscript, written by Andrew O'Hagan, to Canongate. Instead, it was handed over by O'Hagan's researcher "for viewing purposes only" and was never intended for publication, he said.

Canongate publishing director Nick Davies said the WikiLeaks chief should be pleased with the result.

"It's the good and the bad of Julian in there, which ultimately does him some favours," Davies said.

"He has been portrayed as this Bond villain ... but what comes through here is this very human portrait of Julian, warts and all."

- INDEPENDENT, AP

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