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Venezuela’s Maduro spurs on Snowden in asylum bid
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has confirmed that his country had received an asylum application from US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, urging the fugitive to make travel plans from his hide-out in the transit zone of Moscow airport.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday that his government had received the asylum application of Edward Snowden and called on the fugitive whistleblower to decide if he wants to fly to Caracas.
“We have received the asylum request letter,” Maduro told reporters from the presidential palace. “He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here.”
“We told this young man, ‘you are being persecuted by the empire, come here’,” Maduro added, referring to the United States.
Snowden was also offered asylum in fellow Latin American leftist nations Bolivia and Nicaragua over the weekend.
On Sunday, the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor won the support of Cuba – a key transit point from Russia to the southern continent – in his quest to seek sanctuary from the United States.
“We support the sovereign rights of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and all the regional states to grant asylum to those who are being persecuted for their ideals or their fight for democratic rights,” Cuban leader Raul Castro said, although he did no indicate whether his country would itself offer refuge to Snowden.
Maduro described the offers from the Latin American nations as “a collective humanitarian political asylum.”
Stuck in transit zone
Snowden, who is seeking to evade US justice after leaking explosive details about a vast US electronic surveillance programme, has applied for asylum in at least 20 countries but his bids were rejected or dismissed by most of them.
He has remained in legal limbo in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since June 23, when he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong.
The only departure for which Snowden was known to have been checked-in on – a 12-hour Aeroflot flight to Havana – left on June 24 without the fugitive on board.
Multiple obstacles continue to cloud his asylum hopes and it remains unclear how he would be able to leave Russia after the US government revoked his passport, leaving him without a travel document.
Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to divert his plane last week when several European nations denied it their airspace over rumours that Snowden was flying in the aircraft owned by Bolivia’s air force.
France, Portugal, Spain and Italy all banned the plane from crossing over its territory, forcing the jet to land in Vienna, where it was searched by authorities in what Bolivia described “an act of aggression and a violation of international law.”
The Kremlin reiterated its wish on Monday to keep the Snowden affair at arm's length, declining to say how he could leave without a valid passport.
“That's not our business,” President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP. “We are not saying anything.”
Putin said Snowden could remain in Russia as long as he stopped his leaks, a condition the Kremlin later said he was not willing to honour.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)