Melbourne: Controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is reportedly set to target Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a possible defamation case.
According to a report in `The Age` today, Assange has hired lawyers to look at different ways in which he can sue Gillard for defamation over the claim that WikiLeaks acted illegally in releasing a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables.
Assange, 41, spoke about his plans to sue Gillard during an interview given to an Australian activist group GetUP! in London where he has been holed up since June 19 in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange has taken shelter at the embassy to try and avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.
He said Gillard`s comment, which she made in 2010, influenced MasterCard Australia to join an online financial blockade of the organisation.
Assange said he would be vulnerable to arrest in Sweden by the United States Justice Department, which is examining the possibility of charging people associated with WikiLeaks with espionage over the online publication of the classified cables in 2010.
He told the interviewer that WikiLeaks` work had been stymied by Gillard`s comments.
"MasterCard Australia, in justifying why it has made a blockade preventing any Australian MasterCard holder from donating to WikiLeaks, used that statement by Julia Gillard as justification," he said.
"So the effects of the statement are ongoing and they directly affect the financial viability of WikiLeaks. We are considering suing for defamation. So I have hired lawyers in Sydney and they are investigating the different ways in which we can sue Gillard over that statement", he added.
Assange said the comments were particularly damaging because they "licensed" other forms of attack on him and WikiLeaks.
National director of GetUp! , Sam McLean, said the interview was the first step in a campaign calling on the Australian government to seek a commitment from American authorities that they will not attempt to extradite Assange over WikiLeaks.
"For too long the Prime Minister and the foreign minister have put the interests of the US government ahead of Australian citizens. That is not good enough," McLean said adding, "Our government must demand a binding agreement from the US that they will not seek the extradition of this Australian citizen for his work as a journalist and publisher."