Venezuela offers asylum to U.S. intel leaker Snowden, state news says
By Catherine E. Shoichet and Melissa Gray, CNN.
(CNN) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, the state-run AVN news agency reported Friday, without offering details.
The report came shortly after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would grant Snowden asylum in his country “if the circumstances permit.” Ortega didn’t elaborate on his announcement, made during a speech in Managua, except to say his country is “open and respectful to the right of asylum.”
“It’s clear that that if the circumstances permit it we will gladly receive Snowden and will grant him asylum here in Nicaragua,” Ortega said.
Meanwhile, an Icelandic lawmaker said Snowden would not get citizenship there, as he had requested, because Iceland’s parliament refused to vote on an asylum proposal before ending its current session.
Birgitta Jonsdottir was among a handful of lawmakers who put forward a bill Thursday urging Parliament to process Snowden’s request. She said Friday that the speaker of the house refused to put the bill on the agenda and the majority in parliament refused to allow a spoken vote on it.
“So it is with great grief I have to announce that Snowden will not be getting any form of shelter in Iceland because the current government doesn’t even have enough spine for the Parliament to discuss Snowden’s request,” Jonsdottir wrote on her blog.
She then praised Snowden, who admitted leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs and faces espionage charges in the United States. Besides Iceland, he applied for asylum in 20 other countries.
“I and many others regard him as a hero and have deep respect for him for he has taken great personal risk in order to inform the rest of us about how those in power have lost control of their powerlust and violated their own constitutions against their own citizens,” Jonsdottir wrote.
“Mr. Snowden your courage has been noted and there are millions of people from all backgrounds who honor the risks you have taken for us and we will stand tall with you.”
France and Italy on Thursday turned down Snowden’s requests for asylum.
Another country that has seemed supportive of Snowden’s quest for a new home is Bolivia, whose president is now expressing anger at the United States over an incident involving the presidential plane and a rumor about Snowden.
Several European countries refused to allow President Evo Morales’ plane through their airspace Tuesday because of suspicions Snowden was aboard. With no clear path home available, the flight crew made an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, where authorities confirmed Snowden was not a passenger.
The Bolivians put the blame squarely on the United States for the incident.
“Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us,” Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, where he arrived late Wednesday. “European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans.”
Morales also said officials should analyze whether to shut down the U.S. Embassy in his country.
“Without the United States,” he said, “we are better politically and democratically.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa joined Morales in criticizing the United States’ role in the situation, and Venezuela’s Maduro blamed the Central Intelligence Agency for pressuring the European governments to refuse to allow the plane through.
Snowden has been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he arrived from Hong Kong.
CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report.
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