Assange ditches lawyer as rape probe rumbles on

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is ditching the lawyer hired to defend him against charges of rape and molestation brought against him in Sweden.

Assange today made an application to the district court in Stockholm to dump 'celebrity' lawyer Leif Silbersky, reports left-wing newspaper Aftonbladet.

The Australian journalist's application states that he believes Silbersky is "not sufficiently engaged and very difficult to get in contact with".

"This came as a complete surprise to me," Silbersky told Aftonbladet. "I spoke with Assange an hour ago and he said nothing about this. And my other clients know to the contrary, I am easy to get hold of."

Silbersky said, however, that he would not stand in the way of Assange's wishes.

The founder of the whistle-blowing site is believed to have engaged the services of lawyer Bjorn Hurtig, who said he had received a text message from Assange this morning confirming the switch.

In a separate development, WikiLeaks organiser Birgitta Jonsdottir has hit out at reports of a rebellion in the organisation's ranks, and pledged her continuing support for Assange.

To claim that there is revolt within WikiLeaks is not accurate," Jonsdottir posted on her Twitter feed. "[WikiLeaks] is growing fast, needs to adjust to the growth and build structures."

The Icelandic MP's support was far from unequivocal, though. In another message on the micro-blogging site, she renewed her call for the Australian to step aside temporarily while he fights his ongoing legal battle in Sweden.

"I did NOT suggest Assange should resign," she said. "I think he should not be a spokesman right now. He still has my support for all his other work."