Julian Assange, who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London for the past five years, is officially being granted Ecuadorian citizenship. What does that mean for Assange’s future? It’s still very unclear.
Assange has been in self-imposed exile since 2012 after it was clear that he may have to face charges that he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden. But this week has been a confusing one for the WikiLeaks founder, as rumours have swirled about him possibly leaving the embassy whether he wanted to or not.
Ecuadorian officials made the announcement that they would be granting him citizenship in a press conference just a short while ago, but Assange appeared to allude to his new status yesterday, tweeting a photo of himself wearing the jersey of Ecuador’s national soccer team. Britain recently rejected Assange’s bid for diplomatic status, leaving it to Ecuador to try and find a more permanent resolution than having Assange living in its embassy indefinitely. This appears to be just a first step to getting Assange out, though Ecuador has yet to say what next steps might look like.
Assange has claimed that he’s being “held without charge” but he actually jumped bail in Britain and is free to leave the embassy anytime he likes. In fact, just before President Obama left office, Assange offered to leave the embassy if Chelsea Manning was granted a pardon. Manning was granted clemency, but Assange immediately went back on his promise. Assange suggested that Obama only granted Manning clemency to make Assange look like a liar.
“The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the U.K.,” a Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said in a recent statement. “The U.K. did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
It’s not clear what the impact of granting Assange citizenship in Ecuador will be, as he’s still seen by the British authorities as a fugitive. Even Swedish prosecutors, who have dropped charges for the time being, said that if Assange leaves the embassy they’d like to talk with him about the sexual assault charges.
You can watch the press conference here, where officials acknowledge that citizenship doesn’t allow for any kind of “international guarantees.”
“We are having bilateral dialogue with the UK, and whenever we have such a delicate topic, any comments need to be very selective. These comments need not interfere with the dialogue we’re having right now,” an Ecuadorian official said through a translator, emphasising the fact that they can’t speak too freely at the moment about next steps for Assange.
The long and the short of it? Assange isn’t leaving the embassy anytime soon. Even with Ecuadorian citizenship, the British authorities and the Swedish authorities are still very interested in talking with him.