Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Assange
Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Assange
Julian Assange was granted political asylum in 2012 when he took up residence in the Ecuadorean embassy Daniel Leal-Olivas AFP Getty Images
12 January, 2018, 06:17
Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador's foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday that the South American country accepted Assange's application for naturalisation in December.
Ecuador's attempt to obtain diplomatic status for Assange comes as part of the country's broader efforts to resolve the case of their long-term lodger, who moved into the embassy in 2012 to avoid arrest over a Swedish probe into rape allegations.
Swedish prosecutors dropped the rape investigation in May past year, but Assange still faces arrest by British police on a charge of skipping bail if he leaves. Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website that published US Government secrets, has been wanted in Sweden on charges of rape since 2012.
Assange was also charged with sexual assault crimes in Sweden, but those charges were dropped in May 2017.
Ecuador is seeking to make progress with Britain over the fate of Julian Assange.
His stay in the Ecuador embassy has been reported to have cost the Metropolitan Police in London several million us dollars in police presence outside the embassy. Since August 2012, the 46-year-old Australian computer programmer was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, expressing concern that if he leaves the embassy he could end up being extradited to the U.S., where he fears facing the death penalty, according to CNN. Assange was arrested in London in December that year on a pan-European warrant.
Ecuador's Foreign Ministry in a statement said it was exploring options to resolve Assange's situation, without making a reference to the citizenship issue.
The United States still wants to prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917.
The Wikileaks founder has been in the building for five and a half years, fearful that he will be arrested and extradited to the us if he steps outside.
He said the decision to grant him asylum in 2012 had "generated problems" in Ecuador and had only discredited the country overseas, particularly in the United States.
"She did not give details on how granting Assange citizenship might help in avoiding his arrest by British police".
Following reports of the news in Ecuadorean media on Wednesday, Assange tweeted a photo of himself wearing the jersey of Ecuador's national soccer team. A United Nations panel ruled in 2016 that he was being "arbitrarily detained" and should be allowed to walk free.
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