Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday described as “grossly irresponsible” the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables and hinted at charging the whistleblower website’s founder Julian Assange.

“It’s a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do,” Ms. Gillard said.

Assange, an Australian citizen, is thought to be in hiding in Europe after the Swedish government ordered his arrest on rape charges.

But it was unclear whether the 39-year-old had broken any law in Australia by publishing on the internet confidential U.S. diplomatic traffic.

Speaking earlier this week after Sweden issued the arrest alert, Assange’s mother, Christine, told Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper that she was perturbed at the hunt for her son.

“I know for a fact he wouldn’t rape anybody -- it was a set-up,” Christine Assange said.

She said she was not in contact with her son.

“I’m concerned it’s gotten too big and the forces that he’s challenging are too big,” she told the newspaper. “He sees what he’s doing as doing a good thing in the world -- fighting baddies if you like.”

More In: International | News