Quito withdraws Assange's Ecuador citizenship

Wikileaks co-found Julian Assange "violated, repeatedly, clear-cut provisions" of diplomatic asylum conventions, President Lenin Moreno said the day he kicked Assange out of Ecuador's embassy in London (AFP Photo/HO)

Quito (AFP) - President Lenin Moreno's government withdrew the Ecuadoran citizenship granted Julian Assange, acting before the WikiLeak founder's arrest in London Thursday, Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said.

Assange was evicted from Ecuador's embassy in London and arrested by British police, ending a nearly seven year standoff after Quito ended asylum for the Australian-born fugitive.

Moreno tweeted that Ecuador acted within its "sovereign rights" when it withdrew Assange's asylum "for repeatedly violating international conventions and the protocol of co-habitation."

Valencia said that on Wednesday the Ecuadoran government withdrew the citizenship it had granted Assange in 2017 "due to various irregularities found in his paper work."

"The effects of the concession of Ecuadoran nationality to Mr Assange have been suspended," he said.

Assange has been living at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 when he sought refuge there after being accused of sexual assault in Sweden. British police entered the embassy Thursday to arrest him.

Moreno said in a subsequent video posted on social media that he asked Britain to guarantee "that Mr Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could suffer torture or the death penalty. The British government has confirmed in writing" that they will meet this requirement.

Assange's "discourteous and aggressive behavior" and threats from WikiLeaks towards Ecuador have led to a point "where the asylum of M. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable," Moreno said.

Ecuador's president said that his country "has fulfilled its obligations in the framework of international law," while Assange "violated, repeatedly, clear-cut provisions of the (diplomatic asylum) conventions."

He "particularly violated the norm of not intervening in internal affairs" of other countries, Moreno said, especially regarding his connection to leaked Vatican documents published by WikiLeaks in January.

Furthermore, Assange "installed unauthorized electronic distorting equipment," blocked the embassy's security cameras, "confronted and mistreated" embassy security guards, and even "accessed the security files of our embassy without permission," Moreno said in the video.

Rafael Correa, Moreno's predecessor who was instrumental in granting Assange asylum, slammed the reversal of policy as "a crime."

"Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget," tweeted Correa, who now lives in Belgium.