13 Jul 2013

US fugitive meets lawyers in Moscow

6:10 am on 13 July 2013

Fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden held a meeting on Friday with human rights groups and lawyers at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

He requested the meeting with them in the airport transit zone.

The former CIA contractor is wanted by the United States on charges of revealing secrets about US surveillance programmes. His passport is cancelled.

Snowden has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request.

Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have indicated they could take him in. But the BBC reports some European countries are likely to close their airspace to any plane suspected of carrying the fugitive.

Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on 23 June. He is unable to leave the transit zone without asylum documents, a valid passport or a Russian visa.

In a statement on Friday, he said he was requesting asylum in Russia because he was unable to travel to Latin America, where Venezuela had granted him asylum.

He dropped an earlier Russian application after Moscow said he could stay only if he stopped the US leaks. The Kremlin reiterated this condition on Friday.

Classified information leaked by Snowden revealed the US National Security Agency is conducting systematic surveillance of vast amounts of phone and web data.