LONDON – The government of Ecuador has granted a status of citizen to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he lived in asylum for more than five years at the country’s embassy since 2012.
Ecuador subsequently requested the UK to recognise Assange as a diplomatic agent, which would give him immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa on Thursday said that a request by Assange seeking naturalisation has been accepted in December. She explained, “What naturalisation does is provide the asylum seeker another layer of protection”.
Assange, who had been wanted to Sweden in sex-related case, has been given asylum in 2012 after he sought refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden.
However, the sex-assault case has been dropped by the Swedish prosecution in May 2017, but Assange feared that he will be arrested due to breaching bail conditions.
The WikiLeaks founder surrendered himself to UK police in December 2010, and was released on bail after being held for ten days. Having been unsuccessful in his challenge to the extradition proceedings, he breached his bail and absconded.
He also fears that Britiain would extradite him to US for facing cases related to leaking of classified State Department documents.
Earlier this week, the founder of WikiLeaks also posted a picture of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean national soccer team jersey on Twitter.
However, Britain’s Foreign Office on Thursday said that it had turned down his request for diplomatic status.
In response Espinosa said: “No solution will be achieved without international co-operation and the co-operation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out.”