Ecuador has granted citizenship to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up in the South American country’s embassy in London.
The country's foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, revealed during a press conference in Quito yesterday that Australian-born Assange had been granted citizenship on 12 December.
“The Ecuadorian government is empowered to grant nationality to the protected person and thus facilitate ... his inclusion in the host state,” she said.
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The move was meant to “confer legal immunity on Assange”, The Guardian reports, allowing him to leave the embassy where he has been sheltered for more than five years.
Espinosa’s announcement came hours after Britain revealed that it had denied a request from Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic status, and once again called for the Wikileaks founder to “face justice”.
He took refuge in the embassy when Sweden sought to extradite him on rape charges, amid claims that he would face politically motivated prosecution in the US if he went to court. US attorney general Jeff Sessions has previously stated that arresting Assange is “a priority”, and The New York Times says there is a “strong possibility that the United States has issued a secret arrest and extradition warrant”.
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