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Ecuador grants citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

By
Susan McFarland
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange delivers a statement on the balcony of Ecuador's Embassy in London on Aug. 19, 2012. After more than five years living in Ecuador’s embassy in London, Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorean nationality. Photo by Kerim Okten/EPA
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange delivers a statement on the balcony of Ecuador's Embassy in London on Aug. 19, 2012. After more than five years living in Ecuador’s embassy in London, Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorean nationality. Photo by Kerim Okten/EPA

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- After more than five years living in Ecuador's embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorean citizenship, according to reports.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador's foreign minister, confirmed Assange's citizenship at a news conference in Quito, the country's capital city.

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He was granted citizenship Dec. 12 after applying for it months earlier.

Espinosa said Assange would not leave the embassy without security guarantees because he has received threats on his life. She said the Ecuadorean government is seeking a "dignified and just" solution in his case with the British government

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Assange was granted political asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. The investigation was dropped but Assange, 46, refused to leave, claiming he fears he might be extradited to the United States over a bail breach.

A spokesman for Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said despite the government of Ecuador requesting diplomatic status for Assange, the Britain government did not grant that request, "nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. ... Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice."

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Of four sex-related crimes allegations against Assange, three -- unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation -- expired in 2015 due to statutes of limitations under Swedish law, while the investigation for the remaining rape allegation, which had an expiration date of 2020, was dropped in May.

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Assange gained international recognition for publishing thousands of classified U.S. documents through his website, WikiLeaks. Ecuador granted him political asylum in 2012 under the authority of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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