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Julian Assange granted Ecuadorian citizenship

The WikiLeaks founder has been living in asylum at the nation's embassy in London for the last five years 

12 January 2018, 8:54am
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was made an Ecuadorian citizen last month, after five years of living in asylum at the nation’s embassy in London, the nation’s foreign ministry has revealed.

Foreign Minister  Maria Fernanda Espinosa said officials accepted Assange’s request for naturalization in December, and they continue to look for a long-term resolution to the situation.

Earlier this week the UK’s Foreign Office revealed that Ecuador had asked for Assange, who was born in Australia, to be accredited as a diplomat. The request was dismissed.

"What naturalization does is provide the asylum seeker another layer of protection," Espinosa said.

The Ecuadorian initiative was intended to confer legal immunity on Assange, allowing him to slip out of the embassy and Britain without being arrested for breaching his former bail conditions.

Equador gave Assange asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims. Sweden had dropped the case, but Assange has remained in the embassy as he is still subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail.

He also fears a possible U.S. extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents.

Assange posted a picture of himself on Twitter, wearing an  Ecuadorian football shirt. His name now also appears in the Andean country’s national registry.

On Wednesday evening, the UK Foreign Office put out a statement, explaining that: “The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. Ecaudor knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”

A statement by Assange’s legal team said: “The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in its language. [He] is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released. The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration’s public threats to ‘take down’ Mr Assange.”

The new citizenship status, however, appears to change little for Assange in the immediate future. He would still need to alert British authorities of any movement outside the embassy.

Espinosa said Ecuador is trying to make Assange a member of its diplomatic team, which would grant him additional rights under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including special legal immunity and safe passage.