The leaker of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents, Edward Snowden, is stuck at the Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow. He first dropped his request for asylum in Russia, because of president Putin’s condition to stop leaking information. Now the number of possible options is getting shorter by the hour.
Since he leaked classified information on how the NSA collects internet data from private citizens around the world, Edward Snowden has been on the run. He was in Hong Kong when the information went public June 6, 2013, and arrived in Russia June 23, 2013. Since then, he has been staying in the airport’s transit zone.
The first option to escape extradition to the United States, who is prosecuting Snowden for espionage and theft of government property, was Russia. Vladimir Putin seemed inclined to grant the request for asylum but attached the condition that Snowden would stop “his work aimed at bringing harm” to the United States.
Because of this, Snowden crossed Russia from his list of 21 countries where he applied for asylum, according to Wikileaks.
Snowden, however, faces a near insurmountable problem. Most countries require the person who asks for asylum to be in the country. Ecuador, for example, who already granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the country’s embassy in London, will not consider Snowden’s case for the moment.
“The right of asylum request is one thing, but helping someone travel from one country to another – Ecuador has never done this,” President Rafael Correa told The Guardian newspaper. Snowden would have to be on Ecuadorian territory, which includes the embassy, for his application to succeed.
Other countries like Spain, Finland and Switzerland would not even let the embassy pass and require the person who applies for asylum to be in the country. The United States has revoked Snowden’s passport and it will be impossible for him to leave the transit zone of the Moscow airport without an authorized document from another country.
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany and France are weighing their options. French President Francois Hollande has called for a unified European Union policy toward NSA spying, as the agency collected vast amounts of European citizens’ data without prior consent by the authorities.
Germany also only admits applications within its borders and Minister of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich said that “at the end this will most likely be a political question” and not a clear-cut request for asylum, according to German daily Bild.
In addition, Germany will likely refuse any request for asylum as Snowden is not persecuted because of his race or political affiliation, but rather prosecuted because he allegedly broke the law in the United States. Germany can grant asylum to “someone who is politically persecuted but not someone who is being prosecuted for breaking the law,” German parliamentarian Wolfgang Bosbach told Bild.
Nonetheless, Bosbach hinted at a very small possibility that the Minister of the Interior would allow Snowden to stay in Germany: “[There is] the possibility to grant someone resident status because of other reasons, something that the Minister will examine closely.”
This other reason could be that Snowden will be rewarded for bringing the NSA spying to the attention of EU authorities who had previously been unaware, according to some German Green party politicians. Given Germany’s close to relationship to the United States, this is considered highly unlikely.
Venezuela has expressed the most positive intention to receive Snowden, although it is unclear how he is supposed to reach the country without a valid travel document.
List of countries that rejected the application:
List of countries that did not officially respond yet: