WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was stripped of his Ecuadorian citizenship after the country’s court found that his naturalisation process was full of irregularities, reported Bloomberg on Wednesday. Naturalisation is a process by which a non-citizen can obtain citizenship in a country.
Assange, who is currently lodged in a London prison, had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 2012 after he sought asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden in connection with sexual assault allegations against him that were later dropped.
In 2018, Assange was granted the citizenship of Ecuador in an attempt by then Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to get the journalist out of its embassy in London, reported AP. However, a year later, Ecuador withdrew his asylum citing “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols”. He was then arrested by the United Kingdom Police and sent to jail.
The journalist has been indicted by the United States prosecutors, who want him extradited to the country, on espionage charges as well as for computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication. In 2010, WikiLeaks had released a tranche of military and diplomatic documents, including those pertaining to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
In January, a UK court had ruled that Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face charges.
In its ruling published on Tuesday, the administrative court in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, said there were several breaches of the naturalisation rules, including failing to live in Ecuador. The court also said that officials did an “undue and illegal” application interview when granting citizenship to the journalist.
The Ecuadorian authorities also said that Assange’s naturalisation letter had different signatures and possible alteration of documents. Naturalisation is reconsidered when it is granted based on the concealment of relevant facts, false documents or fraud.
Assange’s lawyer Carlos Poveda said he would file an appeal for the annulment of the court’s decision. He said that Assange was not allowed to appear in the case.
Poveda told AP he will also file appeals asking for clarification on the decision. “More than the importance of nationality, it is a matter of respecting rights and following due process in withdrawing nationality,” he said.
However, Ecuador’s foreign ministry told AP the court “acted independently and followed due process in a case that took place during the previous government and that was raised by the same previous government.”