Ecuador gives Julian Assange citizenship after five-year embassy stay

11 Jan 2018

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during a 2014 press conference. Image: Cancillería del Ecuador/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ecuador has just thrown Julian Assange a lifeline in his ongoing attempt to avoid extradition, by granting him citizenship.

For more than five years, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spent every waking minute in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in an effort to avoid extradition to Sweden on the grounds of an investigation into alleged sex-related crimes.

Now, according to Associated Press, Assange has been bolstered by the news that the Ecuadorian government has granted him citizenship as it continues to find a diplomatic solution to political pressure from countries such as the US.

Sweden announced in May that it had dropped its attempts to extradite Assange, which he called an “important victory”. However, he still finds himself facing many legal battles should he walk out of the embassy.

Prior to this latest announcement, the South American country’s foreign minister, María Fernanda Espinosa, had said that Assange would not be leaving the embassy without “security guarantees” because of threats from “third-party states”.

It comes soon after the UK’s Foreign Office rejected Ecuador’s attempt to grant Assange – who is Australian by birth – diplomatic status.

“The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter,” the office said in a statement.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”

Assange recently tweeted a photo with no comment, but it showed him wearing an Ecuadorian football jersey, apparently indicating his allegiance to the country that he is now a citizen of.

Assange’s image and that of WikiLeaks as an advocate of transparency has been tarnished somewhat after a series of Twitter messages were revealed between the organisation and Donald Trump Jr prior to the presidential election in 2016.

Assange later went on to claim that WikiLeaks was attempting to fish for information.

“WikiLeaks appears to beguile some people into transparency by convincing them that it is in their interest,” Assange said, and a message encouraging Trump to reject the election as rigged was “to generate a transformative discussion about corrupt media, corrupt PACs and primary corruption”.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during a 2014 press conference. Image: Cancillería del Ecuador/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic