Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Report: Snowden plans to seek asylum in Russia

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian parliament member who was among the figures meeting with Edward Snowden says the NSA leaker plans to seek asylum in Russia.

Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov told reporters of Snowden’s intentions after he and a dozen other prominent officials and activists met today with Snowden in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, where Snowden has been marooned since June 23.

The activists included Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s Russia office, and Tatiana Lokshina, deputy head of the Russian office of Human Rights Watch. Also taken into the meeting room were Russia’s presidential human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and  prominent attorney Genri Reznik.

They came after an email in Snowden’s name was sent on Thursday. On Facebook, Lokshina posted the text of the email, which says in part that Snowden wants to make “a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation.”

Hundreds of journalists flocked to the airport, but were kept in a hallway outside the meeting area which is behind a gray door marked “staff only.” It was not clear if Snowden would have to come out that door or if he could exit by another route.

The text of the invitation does not directly address the offers of asylum that Snowden has received from Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, though it expresses gratitude for asylum offers and says “I hope to travel to each of them.” It accuses the United States of “an unlawful campaign … to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum.”

Reznik said before the meeting that he expected Snowden called for it in order to seek asylum in Russia.

Snowden made an earlier application for Russian asylum. But Russian President Vladimir Putin said asylum would be conditional on Snowden stopping leaking U.S. secrets; Snowden then withdrew his asylum bid, Russian officials said.

How much the human rights organizations could influence a Russian asylum bid or other aspects of Snowden’s dilemma is unclear. Putin takes a dim view of nongovernmental organizations’ involvement in political matters.

But an appeal by Snowden to internationally respected groups could boost his status and give Russia a pretext for reconsidering asylum.

Snowden has not been seen in public since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong, where he had fled before his leaks about American Internet surveillance were made public. Russia has said it cannot extradite him because by remaining in the transit zone he is technically outside Russian territory.

Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have said they would be willing to grant asylum to Snowden. But it is unclear if Snowden could fly from Moscow to any of those countries without passing through the airspace of the United States or allied countries.

The Associated Press

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