Edward Snowden’s bid for Ecuador asylum could take months
Ecuador officials say it could take months to rule on an asylum bid by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said it had taken Ecuador two months to grant asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The website has been lending legal support to Edward Snowden, who is in a transit zone at a Moscow airport.
A WikiLeaks tweet said the American was “well” and being accompanied by one of its legal advisers “at all times”.
The website has not further elaborated on Edward Snowden’s whereabouts.
Both WikiLeaks and Russia have denied reports that the Russian secret police have questioned the American.
Edward Snowden first fled to Hong Kong before flying to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday.
He was expected to board a flight to the Venezuelan capital Caracas on Monday but his seat remained vacant.
Edward Snowden, 30, has had his US passport revoked and applied for Ecuadorean asylum.
On Wednesday, Ricardo Patino compared the case to that of Julian Assange, who has been living inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than a year.
Julian Assange walked into the embassy when his appeal against extradition to Sweden for questioning on accusations of sex crimes was turned down last June.
“It took us more than two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time,” Ricardo Patino told reporters.
Ricardo Patino said Ecuador had not yet decided whether to offer protection to Edward Snowden in the meantime.
“If he goes to an embassy, then we will make a decision,” the foreign minister said.
Ecuador said it would consider the American’s application “responsibly” and would weigh “human rights obligations”.
It added that the US would have to submit its position in writing regarding Edward Snowden.
Venezuela has also said it will consider an asylum application from Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden’s case has caused a diplomatic spat, with the US accusing Russia and China of assisting the fugitive. Both nations have rejected the charges.
Russia earlier confirmed that Edward Snowden was still in a transit zone at the Moscow airport.
Although the country has no extradition treaty with the US, Washington said it wanted Moscow to extradite Edward Snowden without delay.
But Russia said that the American was technically not yet under its jurisdiction because he had not passed through immigration.
Meanwhile China described accusations that it allowed Edward Snowden to leave Hong Kong despite an arrest warrant as “groundless and unacceptable”.
The Chinese government has expressed deep concern about the leaker’s allegations that the US had hacked into networks in China.
Edward Snowden is wanted by the US for leaking highly sensitive information to the media about a secret government surveillance programme, which he obtained while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).
He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence.
Edward Snowden’s leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.
US officials have defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.
They say PRISM cannot be used to target intentionally any Americans or anyone in the US, and stress that it is supervised by judges.