Ecuador has revoked the citizenship of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who is currently in a British prison.
Ecuador’s legal system has formally notified the Australian of the nullity of his naturalization in a letter that came in response to a claim filed by the South American country’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
A naturalization is considered harmful when it is granted on the basis of concealment of relevant facts, false documents or fraud.
Ecuadorian authorities say Assange’s naturalization letter contained multiple inconsistencies, different signatures, the possible alteration of documents and unpaid fees, among other things.
Carlos Poveda, Assange’s attorney, told The Associated Press that the decision was made without due process and that Assange was not allowed to appear in the case.
“On the date (Assange) was quoted, he was deprived of his liberty and had a health crisis in the detention center where he was being held,” Poveda said.
Poveda said he will appeal for an addition and clarification of the decision. “More than the importance of nationality, it is a matter of respecting rights and following a fair trial when withdrawing nationality.”
Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship in January 2018 as part of a failed attempt by then-President Lenín Moreno’s government to make him a diplomat in order to get him out of the embassy in London.
On Monday, the Pichincha court for contentious administrative matters overturned this decision.
Ecuador’s foreign ministry told the AP that the court had “acted independently and followed a fair trial in a case that took place during the previous administration and was brought by the same previous administration.”
Assange, 50, has been in high-security Belmarsh prison in London since he was arrested in April 2019 for skipping bail seven years earlier during a separate legal battle.
Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over charges of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden halted investigations into sex crimes in November 2019 because so much time had passed.
US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 charges of espionage and one of computer abuse charges following WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.
US prosecutors say Assange unlawfully aided US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic telegrams and military files that WikiLeaks later published.
Assange’s lawyers argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to protection of free speech by the First Amendment for publishing documents exposing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Britain’s Supreme Court authorized the US government to appeal a decision that the WikiLeaks founder cannot be sent to the United States to face charges of espionage.
In January, a lower court judge rejected a U.S. request to send Assange to the U.S.