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Iran Press TV

Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Assange

Iran Press TV

Thu Jan 11, 2018 06:10PM

Ecuador has granted citizenship to the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who has been holed up at the embassy of the South American country in the UK for five and a half years.

"The Ecuadoran government is empowered to grant nationality to the protected person and thus facilitate... his inclusion in the host state," Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told a press conference in the capital, Quito, on Thursday.

Assange was "naturalized" as an Ecuadorean on December 12 at his request, Espinosa said, adding that she was seeking to settle his situation with Britain.

"Ecuador is currently exploring other solutions in dialog 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," she pointed out.

Espinosa further raised concerns about threats to Assange's life coming from third party states.

The British Foreign Office said earlier on Thursday that it had refused a request by Ecuador for Assange to be given 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.

Also on Thursday, Reuters reported that an entry had appeared for "Julian Paul Assange" in Ecuador's Civil Registry, which only includes the names of Ecuadorean citizens.

This came a day after Assange tweeted a photo of himself wearing the jersey of Ecuador's national soccer team.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012. The activist secured political asylum from Quito after he lost a legal battle against extradition to Sweden, where he is facing questioning over rape and sexual abuse allegations.

Assange denies the abuse accusations, describing them as a ploy to send him to the US, where he is wanted over the release of thousands of classified documents about US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on his whistleblower website.

Swedish prosecutors dropped last year their investigation into allegations against Assange, but he still faces arrest for breaching bail conditions if he steps outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

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