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Ecuador strips Julian Assange of citizenship

July 28, 2021

Ecuador has revoked the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Authorities say there were numerous irregularities and errors in his application, made from hiding in Ecuador's London embassy.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2016
Assange spent almost seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in LondonImage: Peter Nicholls/REUTERS

Ecuador has rescinded the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, having given it to him in 2018 under a previous government.

The country's justice system formally notified Assange, who is currently in a British prison. Ecuadorian authorities say that there were multiple problems with his original application, including inconsistencies, different signatures and unpaid fees.

Assange's lawyer, Carlos Poveda, told the Associated Press that the decision was made without due process and that Assange was not permitted to appear.

"On the date [Assange] was cited he was deprived of his liberty and with a health crisis inside the deprivation of liberty center where he was being held,'' Poveda said. "More than the importance of nationality, it is a matter of respecting rights and following due process in withdrawing nationality.''

Still fighting US extradition

For years, Assange's fate seemed to rest on his newfound friendship with Ecuador, but the relationship had frayed even before the country elected its first center-right president in almost two decades this year.

Assange was given Ecuadorian citizenship by the government of Lenin Moreno after years in the country's protection in London. 

Assange had spent almost seven years in hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he took asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

In 2019, Moreno's government put an end to the asylum status for Assange and he was arrested in April by the London Metropolitan Police for skipping bail seven years earlier during a separate legal battle.

He has since been lodged in London's high-security Belmarsh Prison.

US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. If the charges are proven, he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.

While in January a lower court judge refused an American request to send Assange to the US, Britain's High Court granted the US government permission to appeal the decision earlier this month.

dvv/msh (AP, EFE)