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29th Jan 2023

Snowden seeking asylum in nine EU countries

  • Snowden is said to be stuck in transit in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport (Photo: SuperJet International)

US super-leaker Edward Snowden has asked nine EU countries for political asylum.

The member states, named in a press release on Tuesday (2 July) on the WikiLeaks website, are: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

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WikiLeaks said one of its lawyers filed the requests on 30 June.

It noted he also asked for help from European countries Norway and Switzerland, as well as Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, India, Nicaragua, Russia and Venezuela.

It said he previously filed requests with Ecuador and Iceland.

The move is likely to cause embarrassment in Europe.

France and Germany are US allies, but they have voiced anger over the US snooping activities disclosed by Snowden.

For his part, Juergen Trittin, the leader of the German Green party - the third largest in the Bundestag - told press on Monday that Snowden "should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens."

European Commission leader Jose Manuel Barroso told MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday that the EU diplomatic corps has asked the US ambassador to the EU, William Kennard, to say if the US really bugged EU embassies in Washington and New York.

But one MEP, Belgian Liberal Guy Verhofstadt, said Brussels' response so far is "weak." "We are not concerned, we are angry," he noted.

The US is unapologetic.

President Barack Obama, currently on a tour in Africa, told media in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Monday that EU countries also spy on the US.

He said: "Every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there's an intelligence service - here's one thing that they're going to be doing: They're going to be trying to understand the world better and what's going on in world capitals around the world from sources that aren't available through the New York Times or NBC News."

He added: "I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders."

He said he has good relations with France and Germany.

"If I want to know what [German] Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel. If I want to know what [French] President Hollande is thinking on a particular issue, I'll call President Hollande … There's almost no information that's not shared between our various countries," he noted.

Hollande has called for EU-US free trade talks - due to start next week - to be put on hold until trust is restored.

But a state department spokesman in Washington said on Monday: "These free trade talks have the potential to lead to great economic benefit to both European citizens and to US citizens, and so we'll continue to pursue them."

The spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, noted that if the US gets hold of Snowden he will have "a free and fair trial under our constitution."

He said he "categorically reject[s]" comparisons between the US and human rights abusers such as China over the affair.

Meanwhile, Snowden has spoken out in a statement on WikiLeaks and in a letter to the President of Ecuador.

His said on WikiLeaks that the US - which revoked his passport, leaving him stuck in a Moscow airport since 23 June - is guilty of "old, bad tools of political aggression."

He added: "The Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me … No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised - and it should be."

His Ecuador letter criticised "automatic, pervasive and unwarranted spying against innocent people."

Ecuador initially helped Snowden to travel from Hong Kong to Moscow by issuing temporary travel papers.

But its President, Rafael Correa, has told The Guardian newspaper, a British daily, that this was a "mistake."

He said the papers were issued by his consulate in London, which has been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for over a year.

"Look, he [Assange] is in the embassy, he's a friend of the consul, and he calls him at four in the morning to say they are going to capture Snowden. The [consul] is desperate – 'How are we going to save the life of this man?'," Correa noted.

Assange himself is wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges, in what he says is a US plot to render him for trial after he published secret US diplomatic cables.

The WikiLeaks source, a US soldier called Bradley Manning, is facing 20 years in prison.

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