Ecuador defends Snowden actions as asylum bid weighed
Ecuador's foreign minister said Monday Quito is weighing an asylum bid made by fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden and defended his actions, saying they "shed light" on US practices.
Speaking during a visit to Vietnam, Ricardo Patino told reporters Ecuador does not know the whereabouts of the former intelligence technician, who is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.
On Monday, 30-year-old Snowden failed to take a flight from Moscow to Cuba on which he was booked. He had arrived in the Russian capital on Sunday from Hong Kong and asked Quito for asylum.
"Ecuador has made it known that it is weighing the asylum request made by Mr Snowden, so that the government of Russia can make a decision it deems to be in accordance with its laws and international norms," Patino said.
He also noted: "The US has sent a request to Ecuador. We will analyze it and make a decision at the right moment."
"We are considering the arguments made by the US and we will make our decision based on our constitution and our international obligations and our sovereignty," he added during a news conference in Hanoi.
But Patino also defended the actions of Snowden, who leaked information about massive US surveillance programs to gather phone and Internet data, embarrassing the administration of President Barack Obama.
He read excerpts from Snowden's asylum request, in which the former contractor for the National Security Agency said he feared "persecution" at the hands of the US government and its agents.
Snowden said it was "unlikely" that he could receive a fair trial in the United States, citing the risk that he could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment, Patino said.
"The man who tries to shed light and transparency on facts that affect everyone finds himself pursued by those who should be offering explanations to citizens and other governments," Patino said.
Ecuador is already sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julien Assange -- who is sought in Sweden where prosecutors want to quiz him over sex claims -- at its embassy in London.
© 2013 AFP