x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Venezuela looks like Snowden's best chance for asylum

Venezuela emerged as Edward Snowden's best hope of finding refuge outside the United States yesterday after the whistle-blower's asylum applications to 20 other countries were mostly met with refusals.

MOSCOW // Venezuela emerged as Edward Snowden's best hope of finding refuge outside the United States yesterday after the whistle-blower's asylum applications to 20 other countries were mostly met with refusals.

The Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, in Moscow to meet the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said his country had not received an application for asylum from Mr Snowden and dodged the question of whether he would take the former US National Security Agency systems analyst with him when he left.

But he defended Mr Snowden's leaking of sensitive documents on the US intelligence-gathering operations.

"He did not kill anyone and did not plant a bomb," Mr Maduro said. "What he did was tell a great truth in an effort to prevent wars. He deserves protection under international and humanitarian law."

Mr Snowden is trapped in legal limbo after the US revoked his passport and he is believed to be in a Moscow airport transit zone after flying there from Hong Kong on June 23.

Another option for Mr Snowden might be Bolivia, whose president also was meeting Mr Putin during a summit of major gas exporters in the Kremlin. The president, Evo Morales, said that Bolivia would be willing to consider granting him asylum.

Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Mr Snowden had withdrawn his bid for asylum in Russia after being told he could stay as long as he stopped leaking US secrets.

At the same time, Mr Putin has said he had no plans to turn over Mr Snowden to the US.

WikiLeaks, the information-sharing website that has been advising Mr Snowden, said he had applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries.

Many European countries on the list - including Austria, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland - said he would have to make his request on their soil.

WikiLeaks said asylum requests had also been made to Poland and India - both of which yesterday said they would refuse - Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Iceland, Italy, Ireland and Nicaragua.

WikiLeaks also posted a statement from Mr Snowden in which he slammed the US president, Barack Obama, for "using citizenship as a weapon".