WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Has Been Granted An Ecuadorian Passport

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange | AP

Julian Assange has been given Ecuadorian citizenship after living in the country's London embassy 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", Ecuador Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told reporters on Thursday, adding that Assange had become a citizen on December 12.

"What naturalization does is provide the asylum seeker another layer of protection", Espinosa said.

Assange had sought asylum in Ecuador's London embassy in 2012 after losing court battles to avoid being extradited to Sweden over a rape allegation.

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Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation in May past year, but Assange still stays indoors, fearful that he will be arrested for breaching his bail the minute he emerges from the embassy. The WikiLeaks founder, who maintains his innocence, said he feared that Swedish authorities would extradite him to the U.S. where he is wanted for disclosing thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents. He would still need to alert British authorities of any movement outside the embassy.

Ms Espinosa also said Ecuador would "continue to protect Julian Assange while his physical and psychological integrity is in danger".

Following the announcement from the Foreign Office, Assange in a tweet said, "The US & UK governments continue their attempts to arrest me in violation of two United Nations rulings and their own laws".

Britain said earlier on Thursday it had refused a request by Ecuador for Assange to be given diplomatic status, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said.

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"The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice".

His stay in the Ecuador embassy has been reported to have cost the Metropolitan Police in London several million us dollars in police presence outside the embassy.

The biggest crisis came in October 2016, when the embassy cut his internet service after WikiLeaks published a trove of emails from then-U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign. Manning was convicted by court-martial in July 2013, of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, she was released on May 17, 2017, after President Barack Obama pardoned Manning's remaining sentence. He has also called Assange a hacker.

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