What's Next For Julian Assange After UK Denies Diplomatic Immunity?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange | AP

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange | AP

Assange has been holed up in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London's Knightsbridge since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over assault charges, which he has denied.

Ecuador's foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Assange was naturalised as a citizen on 12 December, at his request.

Assange received diplomatic asylum from Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in mid-2012 on the grounds that his life would be in danger if Assange was extradited to the United States to face charges for leaking classified information.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their charges against Assange previous year, but British police have said they are prepared to arrest him for breaching bail conditions.

In a statement on Wednesday (10 January), an FCO spokesperson noted the recent rumours, saying: "The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK". The WikiLeaks founder, who maintains his innocence, said he feared that Swedish authorities would extradite him to the USA where he is wanted for disclosing thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Although Sweden dropped the case, he is wanted by the United Kingdom police for jumping bail.

But when his challenge to the extradition request was rejected, he jumped bail and became a fugitive, turning up at the Ecuadoran Embassy. Ecuador has repeatedly urged Assange not to interfere in the affairs of other countries following his frequent online comments on global issues. Assange was arrested in London in December that year on a pan-European warrant. You also can't blame the man for trying to get out in a way that would make it harder for him to be extradited to the U.S., particularly after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said his arrest was "a priority" last April.

Espinosa said Ecuador is trying to make Assange a member of its diplomatic team, which would grant him additional rights under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including special legal immunity and safe passage.

The decision to grant citizenship comes amid flurry of activity suggesting that Ecuador had ramped up efforts to find a solution for Assange.

May 19, 2017: Swedish prosecutors announce the investigations have been discontinued.

The move was seen as an unsuccessful attempt to allow Assange to leave the embassy without facing arrest by British police.

A United Nations panel concluded in 2016 that Mr Assange was under arbitrary detention.

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