MOSCOW — Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden asked to meet human rights groups at a Moscow airport today to discuss what he called “threatening behaviour” by the United States to prevent him gaining asylum.
The meeting would be the first of its kind since Snowden flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23. He has been stranded in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport ever since, unable to take up asylum offers from third countries.
Snowden is wanted by Washington on espionage charges for divulging details of secret US surveillance programmes. The email address from which he sent the invitation to human rights groups was confirmed as authentic by an airport official.
“In recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the US Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Snowden wrote.
“The scale of threatening behaviour is without precedent,” read the letter, a copy of which was posted to Facebook by an official of Human Rights Watch.
The Kremlin has kept Snowden at arms length, saying he had not entered Russian soil. Snowden withdrew a request for asylum in Russia after President Vladimir Putin admonished him for doing work that was harmful to “our American partners”.
Putin has said Snowden should choose a final destination and go there as soon as possible, but it is unclear how he would get to any of the three Latin American countries that have offered him asylum.
Bolivian President Evo Morales’s official jet had to land in Austria after departing from Moscow, amid suspicions that Snowden was on board, triggering accusations that Washington had asked European countries to bar the flight from their airspace.
“Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” Snowden wrote.
“This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution.” (Reuters)