Snowden seeks asylum from several countries, including Ireland
Applications for asylum or asylum assistance were submitted on behalf of former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to a number of countries including Ireland, China, and India, whistle-blower site WikiLeaks said Tuesday. According to a report from the BBC, an application to Russia for asylum was withdrawn after the Kremlin set what were referred to as ‘conditions’.
A statement from the Department of Justice confirmed said it did not comment on individual cases but that applications for asylum can only be accepted from a person actually in the state.
Snowden, who leaked information about NSA surveillance programme Prism, was charged by the US in a federal court for theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person. The complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was filed on 14 June.
The asylum-related requests were submitted by hand by Sarah Harrison, WikiLeaks’ legal advisor in the Snowden matter, to an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow late Sunday evening, WikiLeaks said.
Among the other countries approached were Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
"The requests join or update others previously made including to the Republic of Ecuador and the Republic of Iceland," WikiLeaks said in a statement.
WikiLeaks did not provide information on the outcome of the requests, except that the requests have started to be delivered by the Russian consulate to relevant embassies in Moscow.
Snowden’s request for asylum in Ecuador hasn’t moved because the government of Ecuador wants him to seek asylum from Ecuador territory, according to reports. US Vice President Joe Biden is also said to have spoken to Ecuador President Rafael Correa to ask him not to grant Snowden asylum.
Snowden, who is said to be in the transit facility of the airport in Moscow after the US revoked his passport, on Monday criticised the "deception" of US President Barack Obama who last week said that he would not permit any diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" over the Snowden issue.
"Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions," Snowden said in a statement released through WikiLeaks.
The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon, Snowden wrote. "Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum."
The NSA was allowed by a court order to collect phone metadata of a large number of customers of Verizon, according to a report in the Guardian last month. The information was said to have been leaked by Snowden who also passed on documents that suggested that the NSA had real time access to the content on servers of Internet companies like Facebook and Google.