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Ecuador grants citizenship to Assange, seeks end to embassy stay

China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-13 10:18
Julian Assange, file photo. [Photo/VCG]

QUITO/LONDON-Ecuador has granted citizenship to Julian Assange as part of its efforts to allow the Wiki-Leaks founder to leave the country's embassy in London, where he has been holed up for more than five years.

Ecuador made the move hours after the British government refused a request from the South American nation for Assange to be given diplomatic status, which could give him immunity from arrest should he try to leave the embassy.

After a year in which Ecuador's president has spoken out against Assange, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said she hoped to find a solution to his dilemma.

"Ecuador is currently exploring other solutions in dialogue 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," Espinosa told a news conference in Quito.

Britain saw only one resolution to the diplomatic standoff.

"Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice," said a British Foreign Office spokesman.

Assange's US lawyer Barry Pollack had no comment.

'Risks to his life'

Assange has been living in the embassy in Knightsbridge, London, since he was granted asylum there in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual molestation case.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their probe into the allegations but British police said Assange would be arrested for breaching bail conditions should he leave the building.

Assange, who denies the allegations, said Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

"There are well-founded fears we have about possible risks to his life and integrity, not necessarily by the UK but by third party states," Espinosa said.

She did not give details on how granting Assange citizenship might help him leave the embassy and avoid arrest.

The WikiLeaks website gained fame after it released thousands of confidential diplomatic cables showing US manipulation of foreign governments and video footage of a US military strike on civilians in Iraq, angering Washington.

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