National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is trapped in the Moscow airport after the United States revoked his passport, leaving him "stateless." He is seeking political asylum abroad while the United States pursues him for revealing state secrets.
Snowden released a statement Monday on Wikileaks, which is providing legal counsel to the fugitive, saying that his "freedom and safety" were being threatened for revealing the truth. He argues that he will be in danger if he’s forced to return to the United States and called the Obama administration’s attempt to discourage other countries from granting Snowden asylum "bad tools of political aggression":
For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person.
Russia has refrained from extraditing Snowden to the United States, but said it would only offer him asylum under the condition that he stopped leaking classified information. This led him to withdraw his request from that country. On Tuesday, Wikileaks released a list of additional countries it had petitioned for the NSA leaker: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela.
Ecuador was initially looking like a promising haven for Snowden after voicing support for him last week, but President Rafael Correa quickly changed his mind after a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden. The Ecuadorean president said Biden told him bilateral relations would "strongly deteriorate" if the South American country were to offer asylum to Snowden. The leaker has another possible haven on that continent, if Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who is currently in Russia, allows Snowden to depart with him.
The United States has discouraged other countries from granting asylum to Snowden, who faces two counts of espionage after leaking documents detailing NSA surveillance programs. President Barack Obama said he wouldn’t engage in "wheeling and dealing" to get Snowden in U.S. custody, but that he expects other countries to respect the law with regards to asylum.
"There have been some useful conversations that have taken place between the United States government and the Russian government," Obama said last week. "And my continued expectation is that Russia – there are other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr. Snowden asylum – recognize that they are part of an international community and that they should be abiding by international law."
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