March 2, 2021

WikiLeaks Using eBay Auction to Raise Money

The opening bid for a steely portrait of Julian Assange — “one of only four photos of Julian in the world” that he signed on his 40th birthday in July, according to the accompanying text — was set at more than $900. It is among 10 pieces of memorabilia and services being auctioned online by WikiLeaks, the group that he founded.

The group announced Friday that it had begun the first of what it said would be four auctions on eBay to raise money, selling memorabilia tied to Mr. Assange and the disclosure by WikiLeaks of leaked American diplomatic cables late last year.

The auction is the latest effort to raise revenue for the group, which has seen many of its avenues of fund-raising dry up after a trove of the diplomatic cables was published, embarrassing governments around the world. The celebrity-driven auction adds more to the group’s reputation as a platform for its founder than to its preferred image as an international champion of transparency and justice.

Aside from the portrait, the items include a package of prison-issue coffee from Mr. Assange’s time in a London jail in December; a “CableGate computer” used “to prepare the cables for media partners and releases”; a gourmet meal prepared by Sarah Saunders, a chef and a friend of Mr. Assange’s; and a diplomatic cable from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the United Nations, signed and fingerprinted by Mr. Assange.

In its announcement, WikiLeaks provided a London number for potential bidders to call to verify the authenticity of the items, which range from a minimum bid of $315 for the coffee to the “buy it now” price of more than $500,000, for the computer.

The signed cable (buy it now for $33,000) is inscribed: “Ellingham 10 July 2011. While under house arrest awaiting extradition. ‘Courage is contagious.’ ”

Mr. Assange is confined to the 650-acre Ellingham Hall estate in eastern England while he fights extradition to Sweden on accusations of sexual misconduct with two women there, charges that he has vigorously denied and that his supporters contend are politically motivated. A London court in July deferred its decision on whether to extradite Mr. Assange, and a new hearing date has not been set.

The auction follows the accidental release of unredacted versions of all 251,287 diplomatic cables. Earlier versions of the cables published by WikiLeaks and news organizations, including The New York Times, edited out the names of human rights activists and other sources who had spoken to American officials in confidence. The release appears to have occurred as the group splintered into factions this year.

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