Fugitive Snowden seeks asylum in Ecuador
US lawmaker says Snowden should return to US to face espionage charges amid reports the former contractor is seeking asylum in Ecuador.PT1M11S http://www.dailylife.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2or7o 620 349 June 24, 2013
WikiLeaks has brokered an offer of political asylum for United States intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden and is assisting his travel from Hong Kong via Moscow to another as yet unidentified country.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange on Sunday confirmed his organisation's involvement in Mr Snowden's sudden departure from Hong Kong ahead of US government efforts to secure his extradition on espionage and other charges arising from the leak of top secret US National Security Agency surveillance programs.
"Mr Snowden is flying in an Aeroflot aircraft over Russian airspace, accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers," Mr Assange said.
Political asylum: Supporters of Edward Snowden march to the US Consulate in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters
"He is expected to land in Moscow at 5pm, local time (11pm, 23 June, Eastern Australian Standard Time) and will be met by diplomats from the country that will be his ultimate destination. Diplomats from that country will accompany him on a further flight to his destination."
Mr Assange declined to name the country in question in advance of a formal announcement, but described it as a "democratic country" and said that Mr Snowden would be able to travel "by a safe route" and that papers had been issued to ensure his safe passage.
"Owing to WikiLeaks' own circumstances, we have developed significant expertise in international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the practicalities in these matters," Mr Assange said.
"I have great personal sympathy for Ed Snowden's position. WikiLeaks absolutely supports his decision to blow the whistle on the mass surveillance of the world's population by the US government."
Mr Assange, who has himself spent a year at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has diplomatic asylum, said that he was "thankful to the countries that have been doing the right thing in these matters. WikiLeaks hopes that Ed Snowden's rights will be protected, including his right to free communication".
"I am also thankful and proud of the courage of WikiLeaks' staff and all those who have assisted his exit from Hong Kong."
The Hong Kong government earlier on Sunday announced that Mr Snowden had left the special administrative region of China "on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel".
The Hong Kong government's statement also said the documents for Mr Snowden's extradition submitted by the US government "did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law".
"As the [Hong Kong] government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."
Iceland has been widely tipped as a possible destination for Mr Snowden.
Two days ago an Icelandic businessman linked to WikiLeaks said he had readied a private plane to fly Mr Snowden to Iceland if the Icelandic government was prepared to grant him asylum.
"We have made everything ready at our end now we only have to wait for confirmation from the (Icelandic) Interior Ministry," Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson said. Mr Sigurvinsson is a former director of DataCell, a company which processed payments for WikiLeaks.
"We could fly Snowden over tomorrow if we get positive reaction from the Interior Ministry. We need to get confirmation of asylum and that he will not be extradited to the US. We would most want him to get a citizenship as well," Mr Sigurvinsson added.