Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, diplomatic row to escalate with Britain and US

Ecuador announced on Thursday that it had granted citizenship to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder who has been living within the confines of Ecuador’s London embassy since seeking political asylum in 2012.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador’s foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday that Mr Assange’s application for naturalisation was accepted on 12 December 2017. He had formally applied for naturalization on 16 September 2017.

The announcement has come a day after the Britain’s Foreign Office turned down a request from the Ecuadorian government to grant the WikiLeaks founder diplomatic status so he could leave the embassy.

The grant of citizenship by Ecuador is likely to escalate diplomatic standoff with the UK and the US.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr. Assange took refuge in the London Embassy of Ecuador in June 2012 after Sweden sought to have him arrested in connection with allegations of rape and assault in that country.

Mr. Assange also refused to leave the embassy due to fears that Britain might extradite him to the United States to face charges relating to publication of leaked State Department diplomatic cables that America says have damaged national security.

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