MOSCOW — Several countries today spurned asylum requests from Edward Snowden, the former US spy agency contractor wanted for leaking secrets, despite an appeal from Venezuela for the world to protect him.
Snowden, who revealed the secret US electronic surveillance programme Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from the espionage charges in the United States.
The 30-year-old is in legal limbo in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, unable to fly on to a hoped-for destination in Latin America because he has no legal travel documents and no Russian visa to leave the airport.
Yesterday, he broke a nine-day silence since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, challenging Washington by saying he was free to publish more about its programmes and that he was being illegally persecuted.
That ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia, where a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Snowden had withdrawn his request for asylum after the Russian leader said he should give up his “anti-American activity”.
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.
“He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him… Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war.”
Maduro said he would consider an asylum application. Snowden’s request for safety in Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, has seemingly ended.
US President Barack Obama has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs. (Reuters)