Julian Assange: Ecuador seeks mediator in 'unsustainable' standoff

World       by Mahmood Idrees | Published

Ecuador's Foreign Minister on Thursday confirmed that her country granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in December.

The investigation was later dropped, but Assange had refused to leave the country. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, took up residence in the embassy to dodge Swedish extradition over a rape accusation, though he has also expressed worry that the United States may request extradition over WikiLeaks' leaking of classified government documents.

The claim came after it emerged this week that Mr Assange, 46, had been granted Ecuadorean citizenship but that an application by the country's government to assign him diplomatic status was turned down by Britain.

Espinosa said Ecuador is trying to make Assange a member of its diplomatic team, which would grant him additional rights under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including special legal immunity and safe passage.

Assange's United States lawyer Barry Pollack had no comment. This appears to be just a first step to getting Assange out, though Ecuador has yet to say what next steps might look like.

Espinosa also said that Ecuador was concerned about potential threats to Assange's life from unspecified other nations and was looking for a "dignified" way to resolve an "unsustainable" situation at its London embassy, where Assange has been living in a small office, and end the stalemate with Britain.

It's not clear what the impact of granting Assange citizenship in Ecuador will be, as he's still seen by the British authorities as a fugitive.


More recently, Assange's vocal support for Catalan's independence push drew the ire of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who was forced to respond to complaints from the Madrid government.

London's Metropolitan Police says he will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy building, on the charge of failing to surrender to the court back in 2012 - and the United Kingdom refuses to guarantee he will not be extradited to the US. USA intelligence agencies believe Russian military intelligence used WikiLeaks and other sites to release the emails it hacked from the Democratic National Committee and top Democrats. But the Trump Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated that it may take a different view.

In October 2016 the embassy cut off his internet service after emails from the then-US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign were published on WikiLeaks.

The sexual assault allegations also tarnished Assange's reputation.

The British foreign ministry said in a statement that Ecuador had 'recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK.

'It seems he doesn't wash properly, ' a source told The Times.

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