Intelligence contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in a number of countries, including Germany. In a statement, he also accused the US government of "using citizenship as a weapon."
The WikiLeaks website published a statement purportedly from Edward Snowden and information on a string of asylum requests that the former intelligence official has filed with countries around the world.
According to WikiLeaks, Snowden on Sunday formally applied for asylum in India, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy, Bolivia, Venezuela, China, Nicaragua, Cuba, Switzerland, Poland, Norway, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands and Austria.
The 30-year-old former contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) also applied for asylum in Russia, where he is currently believed to be situated. President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that he would agree to Snowden's request, on the condition that he stopped leaking US secrets.
Snowden is believed to have spent the past week in a transit area at a Moscow airport; without divulging his whereabouts, Snowden complained in a statement posted by WikiLeaks that he was stateless and trapped. Snowden had stayed silent since his arrival in Russia from Hong Kong.
US hindering asylum hunt?
"The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon," the statement, signed Edward Joseph Snowden, said. "Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person."
The US government said Monday that while Snowden's passport has been cancelled, his citizenship has not been revoked and he could be issued an entry document to return to his native country.
Snowden accused Washington of seeking to stop him from applying for political asylum, a right enshrined in Article 14 of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He said that it was being reported that, "after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions."
Ecuador's President Raffael Correa said US Vice President Joe Biden raised the issue with him in a weekend phone call. Snowden said Obama was guilty of "deception" and imposing "the extralegal penalty of exile," calling such methods "the old, bad tools of political aggression."
After revealing data on a program known as PRISM that allegedly allowed the NSA and other authorities to access information on users of some of the world's largest online platforms, Snowden is wanted on espionage charges in the US.
He said he had left Hong Kong last week "after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat."
'Not me, but those who would come after me'
The fugitive said in his statement that the US response was designed not to frighten him, but rather future whistleblowers considering the same path.
"In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake," Snowden said. "We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised - and it should be."
Germany's prominent Green party politician Jürgen Trittin on Monday said in an ARD public television interview that he thought Germany should offer asylum to Snowden.
msh/ch (AFP, dpa, Reuters)