Assange sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 after Sweden sought to have him arrested in connection with allegations in that country. Sweden is no longer seeking his extradition, but Assange has refused to leave, fearing U.S. extradition.
QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador announced Thursday that it had granted citizenship to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder who has been living in a tiny room in the South American country’s London embassy since seeking political asylum in 2012.
It was an extraordinary development in the prolonged diplomatic standoff, and came only hours after Britain said it had rejected a request by Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic immunity so he could leave the embassy.
“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement, adding that Britain was not in talks with Ecuador about the matter.
On Wednesday, Assange hinted that something was afoot when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean soccer jersey.
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Assange sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012 after Sweden sought to have him arrested in connection with allegations of rape and assault in that country. Sweden is no longer seeking his extradition, but Assange has refused to leave. He says he fears Britain would extradite him to the United States to face charges relating to his involvement in multiple releases of documents — including the 2010 publication of leaked State Department diplomatic cables — that U.S. officials say have damaged national security.
Assange has managed to wear out his welcome over the years, alienating many of his previous supporters, including Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor who leaked documents about surveillance programs.
He also offended potential supporters in the Democratic Party by allowing WikiLeaks to become the conduit for emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic National Committee and leaked to harm the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers working for the Kremlin carried out the intrusions, but Assange insists he did not know the source of the emails, under the working rules of WikiLeaks. He has denied working for Russia or any other government.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that arresting Assange is a…