The government of the UK has denied a motion to grant Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 over fears he could be extradited, diplomatic protections.
Assange in 2012. Photo: AP
Per The Guardian, Ecuadorian officials made the request in hopes that if Assange was certified as one of their diplomats – reports indicate he already has Ecuadorian citizenship – he could finally leave the embassy without fear of being arrested for violating UK bail conditions by fleeing there in the first place. While Swedish prosecutors dropped extradition requests related to sex crime allegations in May 2017, Assange fears that if British police detain him, US prosecutors will immediately issue an extradition request over Wikileaks’ decision to publish troves of secret US military documents.
Ecuador remains willing to shield Assange from any possible extradition for the immediate future but has no way of extracting him without London police interference, hence the impasse.
“The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK,” a Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson told The Guardian. “The UK 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.”
The Ecuadorian government has become entirely fed up with the dispute over Assange’s status as it’s dragged on, calling the dispute “untenable”. While Assange’s presence at the embassy has become a point of international tension and some domestic political griping in Ecuador, the unending fallout from his alleged involvement in a Russian operation to influence the 2016 US federal elections in favour of Donald Trump has also apparently strained his hosts’ hospitality for some time. So it’s possible that Assange may eventually be forced to vacate regardless of whether the police are waiting to scoop him up.
As his options have diminished, Assange has grown steadily weirder, issuing long-shot appeals to Trump and those in his orbit to help him get out of his jam. Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is one of the people most determined to prosecute him.