Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Assange

World       by Mahmood Idrees | Published

According to Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador's foreign minister, Assange's application for naturalisation was accepted last month.

The UK Foreign Office on Wednesday said it had turned down a request from the Ecuadorian government to grant Assange diplomatic status.

He has been in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, avoiding an arrest warrant issued in Sweden and to avoid extradition to the United States.

Security staff were filing minute by minute reports of Assange's movements to Ecuador's intelligence agency.

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. She said the decision to grant citizenship to Assange had been made after careful consideration of Ecuador's obligations under its Constitution and under global law.

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Following Sweden's decision in May to end the probe, British police said that they would arrest Assange if he left the embassy, as he still faces charges of failing to surrender to the court that was hearing the extradition case.

Jérémie Zimmermann, a friend and former colleague of Assange, wrote in 2012 that "unless the people around him force him into the shower, he might not change his clothes for days".

"No solution will be achieved without worldwide cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out", Espinosa said. Concerns have been raised over whether Assange could soon be forced out of the embassy, as Ecuador reportedly looks to end the "unsustainable" standoff with the United Kingdom authorities.

Speaking at a news conference in Quito, Espinosa said Assange was granted naturalization on December 12. Rafael Correa, the president who chose to grant Assange asylum, was widely seen as wanting to burnish his credentials as a leftist leader who would not be cowed by the United States. That was a temporary restriction, but it boiled over into conspiracy theories about a raid against the embassy and Assange's potential demise.

In a separate statement, the ministry said Assange had "committed to not intervening in affairs outside the scope of his asylum status", which seemed an oblique reference to his penchant for creating a stir.

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