France has 'not changed mind' on rejecting Snowden asylum

Paris (AFP) –


France has not changed its mind on rejecting any asylum request from US surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, its foreign minister said Thursday, after the former CIA employee said he would like sanctuary in the country.

Snowden has been living in Russia since June 2013 after leaking a trove of classified documents showing the scope of post-9/11 US government surveillance. He said in an interview at the weekend he hoped President Emmanuel Macron would grant him the right to live in France.

The whistleblower, who has given a host of interviews from Moscow to mark the publication of his new book, saw an initial request for asylum in France turned down six years ago under then-president Francois Hollande.

"For now, he has made the request just through the media but I don't see any reason to change the point of view," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told CNEWS television.

"He asked for asylum in France -- and also elsewhere -- in 2013. At that time, France believed it was not appropriate and I don't see anything that has changed today, either from a political point of view or a legal one," he added.

More than a dozen countries have turned down requests to take in the 36-year-old.

Snowden had told France Inter radio in Moscow he was sad that the "only place an American whistleblower has the chance to be heard is not in Europe but here."

A prominent MEP for Macron's ruling party, Nathalie Loiseau, had on Monday spoken in favour of offering Snowden asylum, saying he had "rendered a service to humanity".

Snowden once worked for the CIA in addition to the National Security Agency.

Though praised as a whistleblower and a privacy advocate by his defenders, the United States accuses him of endangering national security and espionage charges could send him to prison for decades.

Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States but only on the condition that he had a fair trial.

The US Justice Department this week filed a lawsuit against Snowden seeking to prevent him from profiting from his new memoirs "Permanent Record".