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8 Jul, 2013 22:56

Venezuela confirms receipt of Snowden asylum request

Venezuela confirms receipt of Snowden asylum request

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has confirmed that his country received an official request for asylum from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on Monday. This comes after Nicaragua received his asylum application at its Moscow embassy.

“We received a letter requesting asylum” from Snowden, revealed Maduro, during a press conference prior to a meeting with Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli.

The fugitive "will need to decide when he will fly here," added the Venezuelan head of state. 

Maduro last week said that his country would provide Snowden with a safe haven from "persecution from the empire."

Earlier on Monday Nicaragua confirmed that it also received Snowden's official asylum request.  “Nicaragua is an open country that respects the right to asylum,”  the country's ambassador to Russia Luis Alberto Molina Cuadra told RT

“It is possible that Snowden’s application is already being looked at. It will be considered at the highest level, by the top politicians of our country.

On Friday Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega declared that he would receive the US citizen “with pleasure”, if “circumstances permit”.

Snowden’s initial application letter, with the dateline “Moscow, June 30” has also been revealed.

In it the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor says “…it is unlikely I would receive a fair trial or proper treatment [in the US]” and claims an imminent return to his country of birth could result in the “possibility of life in prison or even death.” 

Snowden, who last month leaked confidential information revealing NSA’s massive electronic surveillance program, known as PRISM, is currently facing charges of theft of government property, and two counts of espionage – one for leaking classified to data to those without a security clearance. 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (AFP Photo / Leo Ramirez)
The 30-year-old has not been seen in public since late June in Hong Kong, but is widely believed to be in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

He is believed to have submitted asylum applications to at least 21 countries, but his current options have been whittled to down to three Latin American states, as others have either rejected him, or demand that he first travel to the country, without guaranteeing that his application will be successful.

On Monday, Uruguay’s first lady, Senator Lucia Topolansky, said that her country would consider giving asylum to Snowden, RIA Novosti reports. “This issue should be considered, once a request is filed,” Topolansky said. “Uruguay has traditionally been a country that grants asylum. I think that every country is free to shelter whomever it wants."

“Every country has its own rules and makes its own decisions, and no one is allowed to interfere with the sovereignty of other nations,” she added.

When US security sources presumably ascertained that the fugitive computer programmer might be on the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales leaving Moscow last Tuesday, four European countries shut their airspace, forcing the Latin American leader to make an emergency landing in Austria, where officials reportedly searched the aircraft.

Following the diplomatic incident, which prompted an emergency council of South American states, Morales has also offered Snowden asylum.

If Snowden were to travel out of Moscow on a scheduled flight, he would likely have to make a changeover in Cuba. Leader Raul Castro has said that he supports Snowden’s application, but made no mention of whether the country would offer asylum, or simply safe passage.