WikiLeaks' Julian Assange gets citizenship of Ecuador

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

Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in its London embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face a rape allegation, which he denies.

Assange, who denies the allegations, believes Sweden will hand him over to the U.S. to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in USA history. Prosecutors there dropped the case a year ago, but Assange remained in the embassy after British police said he would still be arrested for violating bail conditions.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's name has appeared in an Ecuadorian government database of citizen identification numbers, fuelling speculation that he may have received citizenship from the Andean country. She said she feared for threats to Assange's life coming from third party states.

On Thursday, Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said that "the decision to grant Julian Assange citizenship is a decision between Julian Assange and Ecuador".

On Wednesday, Assange hinted that something was afoot when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean soccer jersey. Assange's legal team has called on United Kingdom and Swedish authorities to end his "deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation". 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.

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Ecuador's announcement came after several days of speculation that the Ecuadorean government was ramping up efforts to find a solution for Assange.

There were reports in newspapers in Quito that he had recently been granted a national identity number. "Nobody should pretend that granting him Ecuadorean citizenship is a route to solving this longstanding issue".

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