Snowden Healthy And Safe, Says Wikileaks Founder Assange

Snowden
Snowden

US intelligence analyst’s whereabouts continue to be a mystery as Russia defies White House pressure to send him back.

Edward Snowden has been reported to be “healthy and safe” by Julian Assange but his whereabouts remain a mystery as the US warned countries against aiding the architect of one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history.

The WikiLeaks founder on Monday said Snowden and a WikiLeaks staff member travelling with him, Sarah Harrison, were “healthy and safe and in contact with their legal team,”

However, he added that he could not give information as to their whereabouts, following a day of speculation after he reportedly flew into Moscow on Sunday. At various point afterwards he was said to be flying to Cuba, staying in Moscow or even preparing to fly to Iceland.

Ecuador, which has sheltered Assange, said it was considering a request for asylum from Snowden and that human rights were it main concern. There are no direct commercial flights to Quito from Moscow.

The White House said it expected the Russian government to send Snowden back to the US and lodged “strong objections” to Hong Kong and China for letting him go.

Snowden has been charged by the US of espionage and spying after revealing to Western newspapers how the US’s National Security Agency is spying on the internet and phone activities of millions of people. The programme, named Prism, is authorised by a secret court. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to India that it would be “deeply troubling” if Moscow defied the US over Snowden, and said the fugitive “places himself above the law, having betrayed his country”.

Kerry said that ties with Russia and China could be affected, saying he would be “disappointed” if Snowden was allowed to board a plane. He said the US expected “reciprocity” from Russia because it had transported seven prisoners that Moscow wanted in the past two years.

“I wonder if Mr Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they are such powerful bastions of internet freedom,” Kerry said while on a trip to New Delhi.

But the Russian government ignored the appeal and President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary denied any knowledge of Snowden’s movements.

Asked if Snowden had spoken to the Russian authorities, Peskov said: “Overall, we have no information about him.”

He declined comment on the expulsion request but other Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to cooperate with Washington, after it passed legislation to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of violating human rights.

Since leaving Hong Kong, where he feared arrest and extradition, Snowden has been searching for a country that can guarantee his security.

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said during a trip to Vietnam that Quito would take into account a U.S. request about Snowden and is in “respectful” contact with Russia about him. He gave no details of the US request.

“We will consider the position of the U.S. government and we will take a decision in due course in line with the (Ecuadorean) constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty,” Patino told a news conference in Hanoi.

A source at Aeroflot said on Sunday Snowden was booked on the flight due to depart for Havana on Monday at 2:05 pm (1005 GMT).

But a correspondent aboard could not see him and the seat he was supposed to occupy, 17A, was taken by another passenger.

It was not immediately clear whether the plane had a crew section where Snowden might have been concealed.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over Snowden’s allegations that the US had hacked computers in China. It said it had taken up the issue with Washington. [Al Jazeera]