Ecuador planned to move WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to Moscow as a diplomat

Ecuador granted citizenship to Julian Assange as part of a failed attempt to transfer the WikiLeaks founder to Russia as a diplomat, documents provided by an opposition Ecuadorian lawmaker showed.

The plan consisted in appointing Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat to Moscow, allowing him to leave the London Embassy where he sought refuge six years ago. Documents made public by legislator Paola Vintimilla showed Quito granted him citizenship on Dec. 12, three months after he requested it and about a week after he voluntarily renounced his asylum status.

If successful, the move would allow Ecuador to put an end to a standoff that President Lenin Moreno has called a “stone in the shoe” inherited by his administration. Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced rape accusations, or to the U.S., where he would likely face sanctions for publishing secret government communications.

The plan failed when the British Foreign Office opposed his nomination, saying it does “not consider Mr. Julian Assange to be an acceptable member of the mission,” according to the documents. The records also show that Ecuador’s foreign ministry altered the rules for naturalization to accommodate Assange’s request. Vintimilla said that she will ask Moreno to revoke his citizenship.

Ecuador’s foreign ministry didn’t comment on the release of the documents nor on Assange’s citizenship status. Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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© 2018 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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