Ecuador has naturalised the Wikileaks founder as it attempts to arrange safe passage from the London embassy he has called home for the last five and a half years.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on January 12, 2018

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been made an Ecuadorean citizen after five and a half years living in the nation’s embassy in London.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa confirmed on Thursday he was naturalised, saying they accepted the request to provide him with an added “layer of protection”.

Assange was granted asylum by the Ecuadorean government in 2012, enabling him to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation over sexual assault allegations that he vehemently denies.

Sweden subsequently dropped the charges, however Assange remains holed up in the Knightsbridge embassy because he believes an arrest in the UK for breaching bail would lead to extradition to the US for leaking classified State Department cables.

And while Assange has celebrated his new status by posting a photo of himself in an Ecuadorean national team football jersey on Twitter, his freedom remains very limited.

Prior to the decision to naturalise Assange, the British government had rejected Ecuador’s request to allow the Australian-born 46-year-old diplomatic status.

Had it been approved he would’ve had immunity from arrest and could’ve left the embassy freely. But the UK is not softening its stance.

“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.

Espinoza told the press conference in Quito, that the government would pursue other avenues.

“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,” she said.