A member of Iceland's parliament and prominent organiser for whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks has turned on the site's founder, Julian Assange, demanding that he step down over rape allegations made against him in Sweden.
Birgitta Jonsdottir told Internet news site The Daily Beast that she did not believe Assange's repeated assertion that the allegations of rape and molestation made against him were part of a US-backed smear campaign to distract attention from documents posted on the site laying bare US involvement in the war in Afghanistan and further promised revelations.
"I am not angry with Julian, but this is a situation that has clearly gotten out of hand," she told the site. "These personal matters should have nothing to do with WikiLeaks. I have strongly urged him to focus on the legalities that he's dealing with and let some other people carry the torch."
Another WikiLeaks organiser, speaking on condition that they remained anonymous, said that Assange's insistence on staying in charge of the site was creating "a mess for everyone".
The source said that disquiet on the part of WikiLeaks workers had led to a temporary shutdown of the website a number of days ago.
"It was really meant to be a sign to Julian that he needs to rethink his situation," said the source. "Our technical people were sending a message."
The investigation in Sweden into allegations made against Assange by two women was re-opened last Wednesday by the country's Director of Public Prosections, Marianne Ny, who said: "There is reason to believe that a crime has been committed."
Assange has repeated his belief that the allegations form part of an attempt to discredit him.
Jonsdottir, who speaks Swedish, said that she had reviewed Swedish police records and disputed Assange's claim that the allegations were politically motivated, suggesting instead that they may be the result of cultural misunderstanding.
"Julian is brilliant in many ways, but he doesn't have very good social skills," she said. "And he's a classic Aussie in the sense that he's a bit of a male chauvinist."