Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 24th 2013 Contents A39
Monday, June 24, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
MOSCOW---A former National Security
Agency contractor wanted by the United
States for revealing highly classified sur-
veillance programmes was believed to have
landed in Russia yesterday---possibly as a
stopover before travelling elsewhere---after
being allowed to leave Hong Kong.
Edward Snowden was on an Aeroflot flight
from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow
shortly after 5 pm yesterday and was booked
on a flight to fly to Cuba today, the Russian
news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax
reported, citing unnamed airline officials.
The reports said he intended to travel from
Cuba to Caracas, Venezuela. There was also
speculation that he might try to reach
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group said
it was working with him and that he was
bound for an unnamed "democratic nation
via a safe route for the purpose of asylum."
Snowden did not leave Moscow s
Sheremetyevo Airport with the other pas-
sengers and was not seen by a crowd of
journalists waiting in the arrivals lounge.
Interfax reported that he was spending the
night in the transit zone of the airport
because he did not have a visa to enter
Russia and had rented a room in a capsule
The car of Ecuador s ambassador to Russia
was parked outside the airport, spurring the
speculation that Snowden intended to seek
asylum in the Latin American country. But
in Ecuador, a high-ranking source at the
presidency said there was no information
about whether Snowden would seek asylum
there. The source spoke on condition of
anonymity for lack of authorisation to speak
on the issue.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said last
week that if Snowden asked for asylum,
Ecuador would study the request.
Snowden had been in hiding in Hong
Kong for several weeks after he revealed
information on the highly classified spy programs.
WikiLeaks said it was providing legal help to Snowden
at his request and that he was being escorted by
diplomats and legal advisers from the group.
WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has spent
a year inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to
avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about
sex crime allegations, told the Sydney Morning Herald
that his organisation is in a position to help because
it has expertise in international asylum and extradition
The White House said President Barack Obama
has been briefed on yesterday s developments by his
national security advisers.
Snowden s departure came a day after the United
States made a formal request for his extradition and
gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying
the process of returning him to face trial in the US.
The Department of Justice said only that it would
"continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong
and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation
with other countries where Snowden may be
attempting to travel."
The Hong Kong government said in a statement
that Snowden left "on his own accord for a third
country through a lawful and normal channel."
It acknowledged the US extradition request, but
said US documentation did not "fully comply with
the legal requirements under Hong Kong law." It said
additional information was requested from Wash-
ington, but since the Hong Kong government "has
yet to have sufficient information to process the
request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no
legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong
The statement said Hong Kong had informed the
US of Snowden s departure. It added that it wanted
more information about alleged hacking of computer
systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies
which Snowden had revealed.
Hong Kong s decision to let Snowden go on a tech-
nicality appears to be a pragmatic move aimed at
avoiding a drawn out extradition battle. The action
swiftly eliminates a geopolitical headache that could
have left Hong Kong facing pressure from both Wash-
ington and Beijing.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high
degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms
not seen on mainland China, but under the city s
mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in
matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US,
but the document has some exceptions, including
for crimes deemed political.
Russian officials have given no indication that they
have any interest in detaining Snowden or any grounds
to do so. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said
that Russia would be willing to consider granting
asylum if Snowden were to make such a request.
Russia and the United States have no extradition
treaty that would oblige Russia to hand over a US
citizen at Washington s request.
The Cuban government had no comment on Snow-
den s movements or reports he might use Havana
as a transit point.
The Obama administration on Saturday warned
Hong Kong against delaying Snowden s extradition,
with White House national security adviser Tom
Donilon saying in an interview with CBS News,
"Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of
the United States in law enforcement matters, and
we expect them to comply with the treaty in this
Michael Ratner, Assange s lawyer, said he didn t
know Snowden s final destination, but that his options
were not numerous. "You have to have a country
that s going to stand up to the United States," Ratner
said. "You re not talking about a huge range of coun-
Ratner added that a country s extradition treaty
with the US is "not going to be relevant" because
the country he ends up going to will likely be one
willing to give him a political exemption. (AP)
Wanted US leaker Snowden believed to be in Moscow
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