Friday, 19 October 2018 08:13

Move afoot to strip Assange of Ecuadorian citizenship

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Move afoot to strip Assange of Ecuadorian citizenship Courtesy: YouTube

Ecuador is making moves to try and strip WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange of his citizenship, granted last year, in order to comply with reported US demands for his extradition to be tried on charges of leaking secrets.

A report in the Ecuadorian media said these moves were afoot because article 79 of the Ecuador constitution forbids the extradition of citizens.

Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship last year by then president Rafael Correa. The new president, Lenin Moreno, appears to have closer ties with the US and has met US vice-president Mike Pence since he came to office.

The WikiLeaks publisher has been holed up in Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012 when he took refuge there to avoid being arrested by the UK and fearing extradition to the US thereafter.

A group of diplomats have expressed support for stripping Assange of his citizenship in a letter to the Ecuador chancellor José Valencia.

Paola Vintimilla, a member of the Ecuadorian Assembly, has asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to annul Assange's citizenship, based on a claim that the sole purpose of making him a citizen was to give him diplomatic status so that he would not be arrested by UK authorities if he left the London embassy.

Vintimilla claims to have papers which show irregularities in the process gone through to give Assange citizenship.

Assange's problems began when he visited Sweden in August 2010 to attend a conference where he was scheduled to give a talk. During that visit, he had sex with two women and the pair later filed rape and molestation complaints against him, claims that he denied.

He was questioned by Swedish authorities and cleared. He could have left the country then and there, but stayed for a while, in case the authorities decided to question him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010. On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. He was granted bail in December after his backers provided £240,000 in cash and sureties.

A legal back and forth eventuated and went on until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors sought his extradition.

Assange's lawyers, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, replied that if he agreed to the extradition request, then he could be flown to the US from there.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, seeking asylum in the South American country. British police surrounded the building and blocked any chance of his leaving and have been guarding the building ever since.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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