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Nations worldwide shun Snowden’s asylum appeal

© Photo: AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-02

A host of nations dismissed US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s appeal for a safe haven on Tuesday, after he expanded his asylum request to 21 countries around the world. Snowden remains stuck in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow airport.

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was denied asylum by a host of countries on Tuesday after applying for a safe haven in 21 nations spanning the globe in hopes of escaping American justice.

Poland, India, the Netherlands rejected his request outright while several other countries argued it was legally invalid.

Snowden dropped his petition in Russia because he would have to stop releasing intelligence if he were to stay in Moscow, where he has been stranded in an airport transit zone since June 23.

"He abandoned his intention and his request to receive the chance of staying in Russia," a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin told reporters.

The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website that is helping the 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor said he had sent out applications to 13 European countries as well as six Latin American nations along with China and India.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said: “I've seen some reports of his petition for political asylum in some countries but I have no information about that.”

Austria and Finland as well as Iceland and Norway and Spain confirmed they had received the request, but argued it was legally invalid because it was not filed from inside their respective countries. Ireland also said it could not accept an asylum request brought in this way.

Italy said it was "evaluating" the request which it dubbed "irregular" because it was not made in person. And Germany said Snowden's request would be reviewed "according to the law", while France and Switzerland had not yet received the asylum application.

Bolivia 'willing'

But leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales said Tuesday his Latin American country was willing to consider giving Snowden asylum.

“If there were a request, of course we would be willing to debate and consider the idea,” Morales told Russia's state-run RT television in comments translated by the channel from Spanish.

Snowden also found support from another leftist Latin American leader, Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.

"What he did was reveal a big truth so that we could avoid a war," he said during a two-day visit to Moscow during which he was attending an energy summit.

"What is happening now should not be – he never killed anyone or plant any bombs."

But Maduro refused to entertain speculation that he might take Snowden on a plane with him from Moscow – a possibility raised both by Russian media and political observers of the explosive case.

Airport hide-out

Suspected of hiding in Moscow’s Sheremetvevo airport since last week, Snowden broke a 10-day silence on Monday to release a statement through the WikiLeaks organisation sharply criticising Washington.

“Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person,” Snowden said. “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.

“Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”

Snowden revealed information about a vast Internet and telephone surveillance programme by the US National Security Agency (NSA) – which has allegedly targeted European diplomatic missions.

Obama plays down scandal

Snowden’s expanded requests come as Obama contends with angry reactions from EU leaders over the NSA purportedly eavesdropping on European diplomats in Washington, New York and Brussels.

French President François Hollande demanded Monday that the US immediately stop any such spying and suggested the widening controversy could jeopardize next week’s opening of talks over a possible US-EU free trade agreement.

“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour from partners and allies,” Hollande said on French television.

Earlier, Berlin offered a sharp rebuke with government spokesman Steffen Seibert telling the US: “We’re not in the Cold War anymore.”

Obama, on an official tour of Africa, tried to play down the scandal on Monday, saying Europeans “are some of the closest allies that we have in the world” and that listening in on other countries’ leaders was commonplace for intelligence services.

“I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That’s how intelligence services operate,” he said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-02

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