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Entries in Asylum (7)

Saturday
Jul062013

Can Snowden Get to Venezuela or Nicaragua for Asylum?

The Guardian via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Venezuela and Nicaragua reportedly are prepared to throw Edward Snowden a lifeline -- if he can get there.

The accused NSA leaker has been stuck in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremedevo International Airport for nearly two weeks, with no way to enter Russia, no valid U.S. passport to travel on because the United States revoked it, and no route to safe haven that avoids a U.S. extradition treaty.

Most of his applications for asylum in more than two dozen countries have been rejected, but now he may have options.

"I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden," Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Friday evening, adding that he was doing so, "in the name of the dignity of Latin America."

"He can come and live here, away from the persecution of American imperialism," Maduro said.
Just an hour earlier, Nicaragua offered what appeared to be conditional asylum.

"If the circumstances permit it, we would gladly receive Snowden here and would grant him asylum here," Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega said on Friday.

He did not elaborate on what those circumstances would be.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, whose plane was forced to land in Austria and searched after rumors swirled that Snowden was on board earlier this week, said on Wednesday that his country would consider giving Snowden asylum, as well.

Federal authorities last month filed espionage charges against Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor accused of disclosing secret anti-terrorism programs run by the U.S. government.

But how could Snowden get Latin America from Moscow, where he traveled after originally hiding out in Hong Kong?

The only "safe" commercial flight across the Atlantic -- one that would avoid U.S. extradition treaties -- is to Cuba. Cuba has an extradition treaty from 1904, but the Castro government could chose to ignore it.
From Havana, Snowden could connect to Caracas, Venezuela, or Managua, Nicaragua.

If he could get a valid travel document from either country in time, Snowden could take Saturday's 2:05 p.m. flight to Cuba. There are two connecting flights to Caracas on Sunday.

Getting to Managua commercially is more difficult. There's only one non-stop flight from Cuba and it leaves Saturday morning, so Snowden would have to cool his heels in Cuba for an entire week if he left Moscow on the next flight.

The other question is: Will Cuba let Snowden transit there? U.S. officials have told ABC News they believe the Cubans want nothing to do with Snowden. As evidence, they pointed to the fact that Snowden failed to board previous flights to Cuba, when safe haven in Ecuador appeared to be an option.

There is also the private-flight option. Reports last week quoted the cost of a private plane to Ecuador to be more than $200,000 on one of the few private jets that could make the trip without refueling. Similar flights to Venezuela or Nicaragua would presumably be only a bit less.

But even if he does get on either of those flights, there is also the question of air space -- especially after the incident involving the Bolivian president's plane. Would European countries or the United States deny a plane carrying Snowden to fly over their territory or force it down?

The Bolivian president's situation was slightly different in that his plane needed to refuel somewhere in Europe before crossing the Atlantic, rather than just flying over.

President Obama last week dismissed suggestions the U.S. was prepared to force down a commercial flight carrying Snowden, saying, "No, I am not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29 year-old hacker."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul052013

Presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua Offer Asylum to Edward Snowden

Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The presidents of Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered political asylum to fugitive Edward Snowden.

According to BBC News, Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro announced his willingness to accept Snowden in a speech on Venezuela's Independence Day.

"As head of state and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young U.S. citizen Edward Snowden," Maduro said.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said that he would do the same "if circumstances permit," according to Agence France-Presse.

Snowden has reportedly asked 21 nations for asylum, however, the majority have rejected his requests. Snowden is believed to still be at an airport in Moscow, where he arrived last month.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug312012

WikiLeaks Founder Says Swedes May Drop Case

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- In a South American television interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that he thinks he could be living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for up to a year, and that the Swedish government could drop its sexual assault investigation.

Assange, 41, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy since June, when he fled there after British authorities approved his extradition to Sweden. The Swedish government wants to question Assange about allegations of assault made by two women. The Ecuadorean government officially granted Assange asylum earlier this month, but British authorities have said they will arrest him if he leaves the embassy.

Assange told Telesur, a channel seen in Ecuador and neighboring countries, that he thinks it will take six to 12 months for a resolution of his situation, and that he expects the standoff will be solved via diplomacy or through "an unusual world occurrence that we can't predict."

He said war with Iran, the outcome of the U.S. election or the "Swedish government dropping the case" could end the impasse. "I think this is the most likely scenario," said Assange. "Maybe after a thorough investigation of what happened [Swedish authorities] could drop the case."

In the interview, he also asserted that both he and his organization were the subject of political persecution. "Ecuador has been correct in showing its values in this case," said Assange.

Assange has said that he sought asylum because he feared the Swedish government could deliver him into U.S. custody. WikiLeaks has released thousands of State Department cables and other sensitive U.S. government information. The Ecuadorian government cited the threat of Assange's extradition to the U.S. in granting Assange's asylum request.

The Ecuadorean government has claimed that the U.K. has threatened to invoke a national law that would allow it to revoke the embassy's protected diplomatic status and take Assange from the embassy, an apartment in Knightsbridge, by force.

British foreign minister William Hague has denied that the U.K. has issued any threat to storm the embassy. This week, Hague said that "given Ecuador's position on what they call diplomatic asylum and our very clear legal position, such a solution is not in sight at the moment."

In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women. According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom. She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had. A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.

In May, the U.K. upheld the validity of the Swedish prosecutor's arrest warrant, making him subject to extradition to Sweden by the end of June. He had been living under house arrest at the mansion of a supporter in the English countryside. He sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy on June 19.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

Ecuador's President Calls for Assange's Safe Pasage to His Country

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(QUITO, Ecuador) -- How long might WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have to live at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?  It could be days, months or even years.

Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador which he sought to stop his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges brought by two women.

Ecuador agrees with Assange that Sweden might turn around and hand him over to U.S. authorities who are anxious to try Assange for publishing thousands of formerly classified State and Defense Department documents on his website.

As long as Assange stays on the grounds of the Ecuadorian mission, he's safe. Otherwise, British police are free to arrest him and begin his extradition to Sweden.

However, the controversy could be put to rest immediately, according to Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, if Britain just allowed Assange to travel to South America without conditions.

Otherwise, Correa told the BBC, the standoff "could go on for months and years if Mr. Assange can't leave the embassy of Ecuador in London."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug162012

Ecuador Grants WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Political Asylum

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Ecuador will grant political asylum for Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, the South American country's foreign ministry announced today.

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults. The Ecuadorian foreign ministry said the country had decided to grant asylum because Sweden could not guarantee Assange would not be extradited from there to the United States.

Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the U.S. WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including a slew of State Department cables going back years.

After Ecuador's announcement, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said the office was "disappointed" by the decision but said it will not stop Assange from being extradited.

"Under our law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that," the spokesperson said. "We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act."

To get to Ecuador, Assange still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said today that if Assange steps foot outside the embassy he will be arrested.

"Harboring of alleged criminals or frustrating the due legal process is not a permitted function of diplomats under the Vienna convention," he said.

The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug152012

Ecuador Official: Decision on Assange Asylum Thursday

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images(QUITO, Ecuador) -- Ecuadorean officials said Wednesday that they would announce their final decision on whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Thursday, but also claimed that the British government had threatened to raid the country's London embassy to get Assange back.

"Today we've received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange," said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.

Patino said that Ecuador will announce its decision on Assange's asylum request Thursday morning. Some media outlets reported Wednesday that Assange had been granted asylum, but Ecuadorean officials said at the time that no decision had been reached.

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults.

Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the United States. WikiLeaks has released thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including many State Department cables.

Should Assange win asylum in Ecuador, he would still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.

British diplomatic officials in the U.S. did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment. According to the BBC, a Foreign Office spokesman said the U.K. government is, "committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."

The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun212012

Syrian Fighter Pilot Defects, Asks for Asylum in Jordan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CAIRO) -- A Syrian fighter pilot has defected and requested political asylum in neighboring Jordan.

The colonel was flying a training mission in southern Syria in a MiG-21 Thursday morning when he went missing.  Syria's state news agency reported that it lost contact with the pilot before Jordanian officials confirmed the pilot landed at a military base in Mafraq, Jordan.  

The Syrian opposition claimed to have encouraged him to defect.  It's the first defection of its kind in the country's 16-month uprising that has already claimed between 12,000 and 14,000 lives.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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