LONDON — The founder of WikiLeaks, the controversial online organization set up to reveal government secrets, will address the public for the first time Thursday since Swedish prosecutors began investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The rape and molestation allegations against Julian Assange have cast a shadow over WikiLeaks at a time when the website is already under pressure for publishing a huge cache of leaked documents about US military activity in Afghanistan.
Assange's appearance at London's City University later Thursday also comes amid reports that WikiLeaks is unraveling from internal turmoil and power struggles. Key staffers at the website have reportedly deserted the organization out of anger that Assange unilaterally decided to publish tens of thousands of classified documents before enough work was done to protect the names of informants.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, founded WikiLeaks in 2006 for people wishing to anonymously publish material that companies and governments want kept secret. The site had exposed details of the dumping of toxic material off the Ivory Coast in Africa and the US army's operations at the prison in Guantanamo Bay. But it did not gain worldwide fame until it published the Afghan war reports, which Assange said gave a complete picture of the war efforts and a more accurate account of civilian deaths.
But WikiLeaks' newfound status has been clouded by condemnation from the Pentagon, questions about its ethics, and allegations about Assange's management style.