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Snowden's asylum options dwindle

A number of countries spurn asylum requests by US whistleblower who has been holed up at Moscow airport.

Last Modified: 02 Jul 2013 16:52
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Countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe have spurned asylum requests by Edward Snowden, despite a call by Venezuela for the world to protect the former US spy agency contractor wanted by Washington for espionage.

Snowden, who revealed the secret US electronic surveillance programme, PRISM, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from prosecution in the United States.

The 30-year-old American is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly out because he has no legal travel documents and also has no Russian visa to leave the airport.

On Monday, the whistleblower broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programmes and that he was being illegally persecuted.

That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should stop "harming our American partners".

World's protection

But while country after country denied his asylum requests on technical grounds, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has "done something very important for humanity".

"He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him ... Why are they persecuting him?

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuelan president

"He deserves the world's protection," President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow for a meeting of gas exporting countries.

"He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him ... Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war."

Maduro said he would consider an asylum application. He later had talks with Putin but neither leader said whether they had discussed Snowden.

Snowden's request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy for more than a year, has seemingly ended.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said on Sunday that Snowden's fate was in Russia's hands because Ecuador could not consider the plea until he reached his country's territory or one of its embassies.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, also in Moscow for the gas conference, told Russia's RT television that his country would consider an asylum request but had not yet received one.

Extrajudicial man-hunt

US President Barack Obama has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.

In a letter to Ecuador seen by the Reuters news agency, Snowden on Monday said the United States was illegally persecuting him for revealing its surveillance programme, but made it clear he did not intend to be muzzled.

Snowden poured scorn on the US government and accused it of waging an "extrajudicial man-hunt" against him.

WikiLeaks, which has adopted Snowden and his cause, said Snowden was seeking asylum in 20 countries.

The WikiLeaks statement said requests were made to China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, India, and several European countries.

India, Norway, Finland, Austria, and Poland confirmed that they had received Snowden's request on Tuesday, but Poland's foreign minister said he would not recommend granting a request.

A Finnish foreign ministry spokeswoman said Finland could not accept Snowden's application as Finnish law required him to be in the country.

A spokesperson for India's foreign ministry said the Indian Embassy in Moscow did receive the application but "see no reason to accede to the Snowden request" after careful consideration.

Obama, at a news conference in Tanzania dominated by the EU controversy, repeated that the US was working through law enforcement channels to prod Russia to extradite Snowden.

The US president said there had been "high-level discussions with the Russians about trying to find a solution to the problem".

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