Snowden 'asks to meet activists'

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Edward Snowden is believed to be currently staying at a Moscow airportFugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has requested a meeting with human rights groups in Moscow, Russian officials say.

Mr Snowden wants to meet them later on Friday at Sheremetyevo airport, where he is thought to be staying.

The former CIA contractor is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets about US surveillance schemes.

He has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request.

However, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have indicated they could take him in.

But even if a country accepted the American's application, getting there could prove difficult.

Last week, several European countries refused to allow the jet of Bolivian president Evo Morales to cross their airspace on its way back from Moscow - apparently because of suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board.

'Unlawful campaign'

The American is believed to have been stuck in transit since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong on 23 June, even though no pictures of his stay there have emerged.

He has emailed meeting requests to leading human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Airport spokeswoman Anna Zakharenkova confirmed the meeting would take place in the transit area, and was scheduled to for 17:00 local time (13:00 GMT).

"We will provide access and premises," the AFP news agency quoted her as saying.

Sergei Nikitin, the head of Amnesty International's Russia office, said he had received an invitation and planned to attend the gathering.

Prominent Moscow lawyer Genrikh Padva is also reported to have been invited.

Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina posted the text of the email purported to be from Mr Snowden on her Facebook page.

In the message, the 30-year-old fugitive complained that the US government was waging an "unlawful campaign" to prevent him from securing asylum.

"This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution," the message read.

The email said the fugitive wanted to discuss the "next steps forward" in his situation.

It also instructed those attending to bring a copy of the invite and identification papers, as "security will likely be tight at this meeting".

The Reuters news agency said it had received confirmation from Mr Snowden that the meeting would not be open to the press. The American reportedly said he planned to address journalists at a later stage.

Mr Snowden cannot leave the transit zone without asylum documents, a valid passport or a Russian visa, none of which he reportedly has.

Washington seeks to prosecute Mr Snowden over the leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents.

The leaking of classified intelligence documents has led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

The documents have revealed that both the UK and French intelligence agencies allegedly run similarly vast data collection operations, and the US has been eavesdropping on official EU communications.

The case has strained relations between the US and China.

President Barack Obama said on Thursday he was "disappointed" that China had chosen not to hand over Mr Snowden to the US authorities when he was in Hong Kong in June.

A US government official said the decision had undermined calls for co-operation between the two countries

But China said Hong Kong - which allowed Mr Snowden to leave for Russia - had acted in accordance with the territory's law.

source: BBC