QUITO: Ecuador said Thursday it had granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him with diplomatic immunity and usher him out of its London embassy without the threat of arrest by Britain, reports AFP.
Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said the 46-year-old Australian, who has been holed up at the embassy for five years to avoid arrest, became an Ecuadoran citizen on December 12.
She told a press conference in Quito that Ecuador had asked London to recognize Assange as a diplomat—which would give him safe passage out of the embassy without fear of arrest—but Britain had refused.
“The Ecuadoran government is empowered to grant nationality to the protected person and thus facilitate... his inclusion in the host state,” Espinosa told reporters.
She said the request to Britain to accept diplomatic status for Assange was made on December 20, and denied a day later.The foreign minister said Quito would not press the issue because of the “good relations we have with the United Kingdom.”