Snowden’s Asylum Options Narrow

Countries in Latin America, Asia and Europe spurned asylum requests by Edward Snowden on Tuesday, despite a call by Venezuela for the world to protect the former U.S. spy agency contractor wanted by Washington for espionage.

Snowden, who revealed the secret U.S. electronic surveillance program Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from prosecution in the United States.

The 30-year-old American is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly out because he has no legal travel documents and also has no Russian visa to leave the airport.

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should stop “harming our American partners”.

But while country after country denied his asylum requests on technical grounds, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has “done something very important for humanity”.

“He deserves the world’s protection,” President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow for a meeting of gas exporting countries.

Maduro said he would consider an asylum application.

He later had talks with Putin but neither leader said whether they had discussed Snowden.

“MISTAKE”

Snowden has prepared asylum requests in countries including India, China, Brazil, Ireland, Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, WikiLeaks has said.

But several countries, including Snowden’s favored Ecuador, said on Tuesday they could not consider an asylum request from Snowden unless he was on their territory.

Norway said he was unlikely to get asylum there, Brazil ruled out even answering his request and Poland said it would not give a “positive recommendation” to any application.

Finland, Spain, Ireland and Austria said he had to be in their countries to make a request, while India said “we see no reason” to accept his petition. France said it had not received a request and China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she had no information on Snowden’s asylum request.

Officials in Russia, which has made clear it wants Snowden to leave, say an embassy car would be considered foreign territory if a country picked him up.

Snowden’s options have narrowed sharply.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has said he cannot consider the asylum request and that giving Snowden a temporary travel pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part”.

Moscow is unwilling to send Snowden to the United States, a move that could make it look weak, Reuters say.

It has also no extradition treaty with Washington.

But it also does not want to damage ties with the United States over a man.

“Russia has never extradited anyone, is not extraditing anyone and will not extradite anyone,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters.

Peskov said Snowden showed no sign of stopping releasing secret U.S. documents and added that he had abandoned his intention of staying in Russia.

(Source: Reuters)

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