Mystery deepens over Snowden whereabouts

US whistleblower's location unknown with Ecuador pleading ignorance and Russia saying he has never entered the country.

    Details of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden's current whereabouts remain unclear, a day after he was reported to have left Moscow for Havana, apparently en route to Ecuador.

    Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador, where Snowden is seeking asylum to evade being arrested by the United States for leaking classified details about its spying programme, said on Tuesday that the country knew nothing about his whereabouts or what documents he might be using to travel.

    The Russian foreign minister added to the confusion further during the day, insisting that Snowden had not crossed into Russia. Earlier reports suggested that Snowden took a flight out of Moscow on Monday, having arrived there from Hong Kong the previous day.

    The United States has annulled Snowden's passport and wants him returned to face espionage charges for revealing details of two widespread surveillance programmes. Washington has strongly criticised China for allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong.

    Chinese rebuttal

    China said on Tuesday, however, that the United States' accusations of Beijing facilitating Snowden's departure from Hong Kong were "groundless and unacceptable".

    Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular briefing that all parties should accept that the Hong Kong government had handled Snowden's case in accordance with the law.

    The White House said Hong Kong's decision was "a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship". 

    Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing website Wikileaks, has described Snowden as "healthy and safe", but did not provide any details of his whereabouts. Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador in a separate case, and has been living in the country's London embassy for more than a year.

    Snowden has been charged by the US of espionage and spying after he revealed to Western newspapers how the United States' National Security Agency spies on the internet and phone activities of millions of people.

    The programme, named PRISM, is authorised by a secret court.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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