NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden 'requests asylum in Ecuador'

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and Ecuadorian Ambassador to Russia among those involved in  US whistleblower's search for asylum

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who revealed the existence of a wide-ranging US online surveillance program, has requested asylum from Ecuador, the government's foreign minister has announced.

Snowden arrived in Moscow earlier today after leaving Hong Kong, where he had sought refuge from US charges of espionage and theft, following White House confirmation that the US had begun the extradition process with the city's semi-autonomous government.

Aboard Aeroflot flight SU213, Snowden landed in the Russian capital just after 5pm local time with a companion from online activist group Wikileaks, who helped the former intelligence officer leave China.

It is believed that Snowden will tomorrow travel from Moscow to a final destination that is yet to be disclosed. However, according to Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño Aroca, he has now filed a formal bid for protection from the Latin American country.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has claimed his organisation helped Snowden leave Hong Kong in search of "political asylum in a democratic country," but did not specify his target nation.

Assange, who has himself been avoiding extradition in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over a year, told The Sydney Morning Herald: "He will be met by diplomats from the country that will be his ultimate destination. Diplomats from that country will accompany him on a further flight to his destination."

He added: "Owing to WikiLeaks' own circumstances, we have developed significant expertise in international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the practicalities in these matters. I have great personal sympathy for Ed Snowden's position."

A statement from the Hong Kong government confirmed that Snowden left the Chinese city to a third country this morning, adding: "The United States previously requested Hong Kong to issue a provisional arrest warrant for Mr Snowden.

"Because the US request failed to fully comply with the requirements under Hong Kong law, the US Department of Justice was asked to provide further information. The failure to provide sufficient information in this case meant there was no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden's departure."

In response, the US Department of Justice said they would continue to seek extradition elsewhere. "We have been informed by the Hong Kong authorities Mr Snowden has departed for a third country," a spokeswoman said. "We will continue to discuss this mater with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr Snowden may be attempting to travel."

Speculation surrounding Snowden's plans has continued throughout the day with possible final destinations being named in reports as Venezuela, Iceland, Cuba and Ecuador.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Aeroflot airline as saying there is a ticket in Snowden's name for an onward flight to Cuba that leaves tomorrow and a subsequent booking on a local flight to Caracas, Venezuela.

The source added that Snowden did not have a Russian visa and would therefore wait for his connecting flight in the airport's transit area. "In this case, he will not need to pass border control. Thus, the law enforcement agencies of our country will not be able to stop him," the source reportedly said.

However, an embassy vehicle carrying the Ecuadorian ambassador to Russia was photographed arriving at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport shortly after Snowden landed.

Speaking with The Guardian, Ambassador Patricio Chavez said he had not spoken with Snowden, did not know where he was and would not confirm whether he had been seen by Ecuadorian officials. Asked why he was there, Chavez reportedly said: "We have an interest in knowing what is happening to him."

A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin said they were unaware of Snowden's location or plans, but US politicians have hit out at the former Cold War enemy for not already intervening on their behalf.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer told CNN: "Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran and now, of course, with Snowden. I think it'll have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship."

The news comes amid new allegations by Snowden that the NSA 'prism' program was used to hack Chinese mobile phone data, which could have impacted on China's compliance with extradition proceedings. 

An editorial in China’s official state news agency, which is believed to represent the government’s feelings, labelled the US a “villain” and demanded an explanation of its activities.

The Xinhua statement said: “These, along with previous allegations, are clearly troubling signs. They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber-attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain