The Ecuadorean embassy in London has been the permanent home for Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. In an extraordinary move, Ecuador on Thursday granted citizenship to Julian Assange in an effort to move him out of their London embassy.
The decision was made after the British government denied the request to give Assange diplomatic status, according to Reuters. If Ecuador’s request had been accepted, Assange would have gotten immunity from arrest if he were to depart from the embassy.
This move to make Assange a citizen comes a year after the Ecuadorean president spoke out against him. The Ecuadorean foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, stated in the press release that she hoped to find a solution to this ongoing dilemma.
“Ecuador is currently exploring other solutions in dialogue with the UK, like good offices of renowned authorities, other states, or international organizations that could facilitate a just, final and dignified solution for all parties,” Espinosa said during a press conference in Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said Ecuador knows that this standoff can conclude immediately by making Assange leave the embassy to face due process. Assange’s U.S lawyer did not provide any comment on these recent developments.
Assange has been living in the embassy for more than five years now. He was granted asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. The charges brought beforehand were allegations of rape and assault in that country. Swedish prosecutors have dropped their probe and request to extradite Assange. However, a New York Times report confirms Assange has no intentions of leaving the embassy.
“He says he fears Britain would extradite him to the United States to face charges relating to his involvement in multiple releases of documents — including the 2010 publication of leaked State Department diplomatic cables — that American officials say have damaged national security.”
The above Times analysis goes on to explain that Assange had supporters but has alienated them over the course of his stay at the embassy. One well-known and former supporter of Assange was former American intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden. He also leaked documents about American surveillance programs.
The British authorities have asserted that Assange is still subject to arrest on charges of jumping bail. In addition, it is quite possible that the U.S. has issued a secret arrest and extradition warrant for the WikiLeaks benefactor.
The action that was taken by Assange to become a citizen of Ecuador adds a layer of protection. This saga is far from finished, and how all of these diplomatic maneuvers play out will remain uncertain.