From: AAP October 08, 2012 7:00PM
Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an unwise decision to presume WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s guilt, which has prompted him to pursue a possible defamation case, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says.
Ms Bishop says Mr Assange, who has reportedly hired Sydney lawyers to pursue a defamation case against Ms Gillard, is entitled to seek legal remedies if he believes he’s been defamed.
Mr Assange has told left-leaning activist group GetUp! that Ms Gillard defamed WikiLeaks when she allegedly told a radio station in 2010 he had broken the law by releasing hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables, according to a statement released by the group on Monday.
Ms Bishop said she had always held concerns about the prime minister’s statement that Mr Assange had committed an illegal act under Australian law.
“I’m not aware of any law that Julian Assange has broken in Australia,” she told Sky News.
“The prime minister is a trained lawyer. She should know that to state that someone has committed an illegal act when there’s no evidence is highly prejudicial.”
The prime minister had plenty of time to withdraw, retract or apologise for the statement, Ms Bishop said, and a Senate motion had called on her to do so.
“It was a very unwise thing to do for Julia Gillard to presume Julian Assange’s guilt before he had faced any charges anywhere.”
Mr Assange remains in Ecuador’s embassy in London after seeking asylum as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape allegations.
The Australian citizen is concerned if he goes to Sweden, authorities will allow him to be extradited to the United States.