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Ecuador Grants Citizenship To Julian Assange, Who Lives In London Embassy

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador on May 19, 2017, in London.
Jack Taylor
Getty Images
Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador on May 19, 2017, in London.

Ecuador says it has granted citizenship to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, as officials try to find a way for him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London without risking legal action.

Assange, who is Australian, first sought refuge at the embassy more than five years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced an investigation over rape allegations. He was granted asylum, and has been holed up in the embassy ever since.

The original case against him has been dropped, but Assange remains inside the embassy. "He is still subject to arrest in Britain for jumping bail," The Associated Press notes. "He also fears a possible U.S. extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents."

"Earlier this week, Ecuador said the situation was unsustainable and requested diplomatic status for Assange in hopes of springing him," NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from London. "A British government spokesman responded: 'Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.' "

Reuters has more on Ecuadorean efforts to assist Assange, as described by officials on Thursday:

" '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,' Ecuador's foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told a press conference. ...

" '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 in avoiding his arrest by British police. ...

"For some,  Assange is a cyber hero for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech but to others he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.

Earlier this week Assange "fueled speculation he'd received an Ecuadorean passport," Frank notes, "by posting a photo on Twitter wearing a jersey of the Ecuadorean national soccer team."

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Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.