MOSCOW (AFP) – Fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was denied asylum by a host of countries Tuesday after applying for a safe haven in 21 nations spanning the globe in hopes of winning protection from American justice.
Poland immediately rejected the petitions while an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said “we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to the request.” The Netherlands also said no.
And a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Snowden himself had decided to scrap his petition with Moscow — where he has been stranded in an airport transit zone since June 23 — after the Kremlin chief said he wanted him to stop releasing damaging allegations about the United States.
“He abandoned his intention and his request to receive the chance of staying in Russia,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website that is helping the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor said he had sent out applications to 13 European countries as well as six Latin American nations along with China and India.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said: “I’ve seen some reports of his petition for political asylum in some countries but I have no information about that.”
Austria and Finland as well as Iceland and Norway and Spain confirmed they had received the request but argued it was legally invalid because it was not filed from inside their respective countries. Ireland too said it could not accept an asylum request brought in this way.
Italy said it was “evaluating” the request which it dubbed “irregular” because it was not made in person. And Germany said Snowden’s request would be reviewed “according to the law”, while France and Switzerland had not yet received the asylum application.
But leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales said Tuesday his Latin American country was willing to consider giving Snowden asylum.
“If there were a request, of course we would be willing to debate and consider the idea,” Morales told Russia’s state-run RT television in comments translated by the channel from Spanish.
Snowden also found support from another leftist Latin American leader Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela.
“What he did was reveal a big truth so that we could avoid a war,” he said during a two-day visit to Moscow during which he was attending an energy summit.
“What is happening now should not be — he never killed anyone or planted any bombs.”
But Maduro refused to entertain speculation that he might take Snowden on a plane with him from Moscow — a possibility raised both by Russian media and political observers of the explosive case.
Snowden has been stuck in a Moscow airport’s transit zone since arriving there from Hong Kong after releasing explosive allegations about Washington’s vast global spying programs.
He accused the United States late on Monday of pressuring foreign leaders to refuse him refuge after Washington charged him with espionage for going through with his intelligence leaks.
“These are the old, bad tools of political aggression,” Snowden said in a statement published by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks group. “Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”
An asylum application letter Snowden sent to Poland stressed that US President Barack Obama “is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless.” He continued, “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.”
Snowden’s latest major leak about U.S. spying on EU countries has angered many European governments and threatened to derail preparations for delicate talks on a massive free trade deal between Washington and Brussels.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz stressed that he was “sympathetic” to an asylum request by fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Snowden and compared reports of U.S. spying on EU offices to “KGB methods”.
WikiLeaks said Snowden had also applied for asylum in Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.
Snowden had remained quiet and out of sight of reporters since arriving in the transit zone of Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport.
He had planned to travel on to Cuba the following day but never got on the flight because he apparently lacked the proper boarding papers after his US travel passport was revoked.
Snowden late Monday issued his first statement through WikiLeaks since his arrival in Moscow — a blistering attack on the United States.
“Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.”
Snowden also called Ecuador — a country to which he first applied for asylum and whose London embassy is harbouring WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — one of those who stand up to US interests “an example to the world.”