Julian Assange is granted citizenship by Ecuador as he continues to live at London embassy

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted citizenship by Ecuador. 

Mr Assange has been holed up for more than five years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa confirmed Assange’s citizenship request at a press conference in Quito. 

She added she feared for threats to Assange’s life coming from third party states. 

It comes after Britain earlier said it had refused a request by Ecuador for Mr Assange to be given diplomatic status, a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Julian Assange in 2011 before he sought refuge in the embassy. (Getty Images)

The spokesman said: “The Government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK.

“The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”

Mr Assange at a Stop the War Coalition rally in Trafalgar Square, London, in 2011. (Getty Images)

Mr Assange sought refuge at the South American country in June 2012 in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden.

Swedish prosecutors have since dropped their investigation into Australian-born Mr Assange after visiting him at the Knightsbridge embassy in November 2016.

But Mr Assange now fears there is a sealed indictment ordering his arrest and he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy where he could face charges over leaking classified US documents.

Earlier this week, Ecuador’s foreign minister confirmed the country was looking for a third country to mediate and resolve the deadlock, after calling the current situation “not sustainable”.

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

A statement by Mr Assange’s legal team said: “The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in its language. Mr Assange is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released.

“The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration’s public threats to ‘take down’ Mr Assange.”

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