Snowden asks to meet human rights groups at Moscow airport

DPA Moscow | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 12, 2013

US whistleblower Edward Snowden (file photo)

US whistleblower Edward Snowden has asked for a meeting with human rights groups at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport where he has been unseen for three weeks.

In an email sent to lawyers and activists published on Friday by Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch’s Moscow office, Snowden said the United States was waging an “unlawful campaign” to deny his right to asylum.

He singled out the forced grounding last week in Vienna of a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales after several European countries closed their airspace, suspecting Snowden was on board.

“The scale of threatening behaviour is without precedent: 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.

He added that 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.” The meeting, scheduled for 5 pm (1300 GMT) was “for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation”.

Airport spokeswoman Anna Zakharenkova told dpa that no media representatives would be allowed to take part.

Lokshina told dpa that Human Rights Watch would probably not attend. A woman who answered the phone at Amnesty International’s office said the organisation would attend.

The Interfax news agency reported that the invitation was also to Transparency International and the Moscow office of the United Nations’ Refugee Agency UNHCR. An UNHCR official would not say if a representative is planning to attend, the report said.

Snowden also invited pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov and a number of well-known Russian lawyers, the agency reported, citing an unnamed airport source.

Snowden is sought by the US government on espionage charges after he disclosed a secret internet surveillance programme.

He has been at the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport since his arrival on June 21. The United States revoked his passport and no country has so far granted him asylum.

He has not been seen in public since his arrival in Moscow. Dozens of reporters kept watch at Sheremetyevo for days after his arrival.

In his letter, Snowden said that he has been offered “support and asylum from brave countries around the world”. He gave no details.

The presidents of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have publicly offered to grant Snowden refuge, although none has issued formal asylum documents.

On June 23, Snowden flew to Moscow from Hong Kong, whose government said it could not prevent him from leaving because a US request for his extradition did not meet legal requirements.

The United States on Thursday criticised China’s handling of the case.

“When we encounter differences or sensitive issues, we need to address them directly in consultation with one another,” said Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. “And that is why we were very 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.”

Published on July 12, 2013
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