Assange says Snowden’s escape to Russia was his idea
Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange could have played a role in the decision by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to seek asylum in Russia, instead of Latin America. Assange says it was he who advised Snowden to turn to Moscow for refuge.
Snowden “preferred Latin America, but my advice was that he should take asylum in Russia despite the negative PR consequences, because my assessment is that he had a significant risk of being kidnapped from Latin America on CIA orders…kidnapped and possibly killed,” Assange said in an interview with The Times.
Snowden flew to Moscow from Hong Kong in June 2013. A year later, he received a Russian residence permit valid for three years, starting from August 1, 2014.
The WikiLeaks co-founder added that the ex-NSA agent “was well aware of the spin that would be put on it if he took asylum in Russia.” The whistleblower faces several charges, including espionage and theft of government property, which could lead to 30 years in prison if he returns to US.
‘I’ve seen quite a number of threats’ - Assange
Speaking to the newspaper, Assange said that he still fears for his life as there are certain “security issues with being on the balcony.”
“There have been bomb threats and assassination threats from various people… I’m a public figure and a very controversial one, including in the United States. As a result there have been quite a number of threats by unstable people.”
He said he doesn’t believe that he is going to be kidnapped by US authorities or assassinated by a drone, however.
“I’m a white guy. Unless I convert to Islam it’s not that likely that I’ll be droned, but we have seen things creeping toward that.”
Assange also spoke about Washington's policies, in particular White House meetings during which Barack Obama approves target lists for drone strikes.
“In the United States every Tuesday, Obama meets to decide who lives and dies, according to secret law. Terror Tuesdays, they’re called in Washington. Secret law. No appeal.”
The Australian computer expert, 44, has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012. The 24/7 security around the building where he is residing has already cost British taxpayers a hefty £12 million, according to govwaste.co.uk.
Assange hasn’t been charged with any crime, but is wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him. An arrest warrant was issued for Assange in 2010 in the of wake sexual assault allegations leveled against him by two Swedish women.
He denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and rape and managed to avoid extradition to Sweden by seeking refuge in the embassy in 2012.
He repeated previous statements that he is ready to answer all questions concerning his sexual assault allegations within the sanctity of the embassy.
In August, Swedish prosecutors withdrew three of four sex crime allegations against Assange after they expired under statute of limitations law. A fourth and final one will remain in force for years to come.
But even if Sweden drops the case, Assange still faces arrest by UK police for jumping the bail granted while the British courts considered a European arrest warrant issued by Stockholm.