6 Jul 2013

US intelligence fugitive offered asylum

8:56 pm on 6 July 2013

Venezuela and Nicaragua have offered asylum to the fugitive American intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has made the offer in defiance of Washington, which is demanding Mr Snowden's arrest for divulging details of a secret spy program.

The White House has declined to comment on the move.

Mr Maduro described the fugitive as a young man who has told the truth about the US spying on the whole world.

The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor is believed to be still in the transit area of Moscow's international airport.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega says his country has also received an asylum request from Mr Snowden and could accept "if circumstances permit."

Russian officials have kept Mr Snowden at arm's length since he landed from Hong Kong on 23 June, saying the transit area where passengers stay between flights is neutral territory and he will be on Russian soil only if he goes through passport control.

Reuters reports it was not immediately clear how Edward Snowden would react to Mr Maduro's offer, nor reach Venezuela if he accepted.

There are no direct commercial flights between Moscow and Caracas, and the usual route involves changing planes in Havana. It is not clear if the Cuban authorities would let him transit.

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, said on Friday that Edward Snowden had asked six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has appealed to for protection from US espionage charges.