Ecuador wants Julian Assange out of London embassy

Ecuador wants Julian Assange out of London embassy

Ecuador's Foreign Minister said Thursday that officials had granted citizenship to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange last December.

"What naturalization does is provide the asylum-seeker another layer of protection", said Ecuador's Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa at a press conference in Quito.

The Australian-born activist took refuge at the Ecuadorean embassy in the United Kingdom capital in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, amid fears that he would have been handed over to the USA to face prosecution over the publication of classified military and diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into the allegations in May, but British police have said Assange would still be arrested for breaching bail conditions if he left the embassy.

Reports swirled this week that Assange had been given citizenship by Ecuador, the nation that granted him political asylum back in 2012 amid accusations of sexual misconduct.

Some of the newspaper journalists involved in working with Assange on his first leaks, including from The Guardian and the New York Times, subsequently fell out with him. He would still need to alert British authorities of any movement outside the embassy.

"The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter", he continued.

It is believed that Julian Assange chooses to live in Sweden because the country's media laws are among the world's most protective for journalists
Getty Images

Earlier on Thursday, Britain said that it had a refused a request by Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic status, which would have granted him special legal immunity and the right to safe passage under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in May.

The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Assange since at least 2010, when WikiLeaks published thousands of stolen U.S. security files.

But a year ago, the Australian, 46, angered Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno by tweeting support for Catalan separatists. Conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso pledged to evict the Australian within 30 days of taking office, while current President Lenin Moreno said he would allow him to stay.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Espinosa said officials were looking for a third country or a prominent global figure to help extricate Assange from the embassy and move him somewhere else.

Moreno issued a warning reminding Assange not to meddle in politics.

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