Socialite Jemima Khan has spoken out against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, warning the controversial whistleblower he risks losing his "hero" status as he continues to hide out in London's Ecuadorean embassy.
Khan was one of the well-known figures who threw their support behind the Australian after he was arrested while on the run in London in 2010, and she helped to pay his $384,000 (£240,000) bond money.
Bail was granted on the grounds Assange remained at a London address while he battled extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over allegations he sexually assaulted two women.
The bail money was forfeited when he sought sanctuary in Ecuador's embassy in the U.K. capital last June (12). He remains there eight months later.
Khan has now accused Assange of demanding "cultish devotion" from his fans, and insists she helped pay his bond so he could be free while awaiting trial, and not so he could avoid facing the allegations altogether.
In a blog for the New Statesmen, she writes, "The problem is that WikiLeaks - whose mission statement was "to produce... a more just society... based upon truth" - has been guilty of the same obfuscation and misinformation as those it sought to expose, while its supporters are expected to follow, unquestioningly, in blinkered, cultish devotion.
"I have seen flashes of Assange's charm, brilliance and insightfulness - but I have also seen how instantaneous rock-star status has the power to make even the most clear-headed idealist feel that they are above the law and exempt from criticism... We all want a hero... It would be a tragedy if a man who has done so much good were to end up tolerating only disciples and unwavering devotion, more like an Australian (Scientology founder) L Ron Hubbard."
Assange argues that if he returns to face the sexual assault charges in Sweden, it will pave the way for his extradition to the U.S., where he is wanted for questioning over the release of top secret documents via his website.