Snowden to apply for temporary asylum in Russia

Saturday 13 July 2013 14.30
A photo showing Edward Snowden during his meeting with rights activists
A photo showing Edward Snowden during his meeting with rights activists

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden is seeking temporary asylum in Russia before attempting to travel to Latin America.

Mr Snowden held a 45-minute meeting with human rights activists today, including representatives from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He has formally accepted all offers of support and asylum, including an offer from Venezuela.

"My asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum," he said.

However, he described how "unlawful threats" are preventing him from travelling to Latin America to take up the asylum granted there.

Mr Snowden confirmed he will be seeking temporary asylum in Russia as he continues to seek safe passage out of the country.

He told the human rights representatives that "individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.

"I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets."

Mr Snowden said the US government is attempting to make an example of him, and thanked Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador for their support and asylum.

Wikileaks said it has received information that the US does not categorise Mr Snowden as a whistleblower and believes he has broken US law. The organisation said this meant his right to seek asylum should be upheld.

A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Mr Snowden must refrain from harming the US if he wishes to seek asylum.

The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he was unaware of a formal request for asylum from Mr Snowden.

The former spy contractor has been in the passenger transit area of the airport since he flew to Russia from Hong Kong last month.

He flew to Moscow on 23 June, and has not left the airport transit area despite offers of asylum from three countries.

US 'undermined' by China

Meanwhile, the US has said it is "disappointed" over China's failure to hand over Mr Snowden while he was in Hong Kong.

In response, China said Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous region with its own laws.

The remarks followed a two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting in Washington.

"We were disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues," US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi said Hong Kong's actions were in accordance with the law.

"Its approach is beyond reproach," he said about the decision to not detain Mr Snowden.