WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has signed deals for his autobiography worth $1.3 million, he said yesterday. The Australian whistleblower said the money would help him defend himself against allegations of sexual assault made by two women in Sweden.
The U.S. publisher Random House confirmed that WikiLeaks founder has agreed to write a memoir receiving an advance that Mr. Assange said totals more than $1 million for U.S. and U.K. rights as he seeks to pay mounting legal bills and keep the document-leaking website in the black.
Paul Bogaards, a spokesman for the U.S. publisher, said that Random House, a unit of Germany’s Bertelsmann AG, expects the manuscript to be delivered at some point in 2011 but doesn’t yet have a timetable for publication.
“We are very excited to be publishing this book,” said Mr. Bogaards, a spokesman. “The work that Assange has been doing at WikiLeaks has tremendous importance around the world.”
In the interview with UK newspaper The Times, Julian Assange said he would receive $500,000 from U.K. publisher Canongate Books Ltd. and $800,000 from U.S. publishing house Alfred A. Knopf, itself a unit of Random House.
Mr. Assange said he expected to make at least $1.3 million after the book was serialized and sold to other international publishers. however, neither publishing house confirmed the amount of the deal.
It yesterday emerged that the major financial provider of WikiLeaks website, the Germany-based Wau Holland Foundation, said it has collected about $1.3 million in donations in 2010.
It has established a Greenpeace-like system of salary payments, as WikiLeaks attempts to legitimise its organisation by moving away from purely volunteer-based work.
Mr. Assange, who has become a controversial figure after leaking thousands of confidential U.S. State Department cables on his website, is in the midst of a legal battle with Swedish authorities, who want him extradited to Sweden from the U.K. for questioning in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The 39-year-old Australian, who is under house arrest in rural England as he awaits an extradition hearing early next year, has denied the accusations and dismissed them as a smear.
“I don’t want to write this book, but I have to,” Mr. Assange told the Sunday Times. “I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat.”
Since this process began Mr Assange has faced problems financing WikiLeaks website. Credit card companies Visa and MasterCard and the U.S. Internet payment firm PayPal have blocked donations to WikiLeaks, prompting Mr Assange to label them ‘instruments of U.S. foreign policy.’
The Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank, has also halted all transactions to WikiLeaks. Washington has been infuriated by WikiLeaks as the site slowly releases the cache of around 250,000 secret U.S. State Department cables. The U.S. is believed to be considering how to indict Mr Assange over the the huge leak.
Mr Assange has been staying at a friend’s country mansion in Sussex since his release from jail on December 16 on strict bail conditions that include reporting to police daily and wearing an electronic tag. A court in London is due to hold a full hearing on the Swedish extradition request starting on February 7.
Word of Mr. Assange’s book deal first came in the middle of last week on the Twitter feed of Claudio López de Lamadrid, literary publisher at Random House’s Spanish-language joint venture Random House Mondadori SA.
“J. Assange has sold his memoirs,” Mr. López wrote on Twitter on Dec. 20. “Canongate and Knopf will publish in the UK and USA. Manuscript completed in March.” A spokeswoman for Canongate declined to comment.
Canongate, a small independent publisher based in Edinburgh, in 2006 picked up the rights to Barack Obama’s books, “Audacity of Hope” and “Dreams From My Father,” some six months before the then-U.S. senator announced his presidential bid. The publisher paid a five-figure sterling sum for each title. [via Wall Street Journal and Daily Mail (UK)]