30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Snowden could face long wait in asylum bid
As fugitive whistle-blower spends fourth night at Moscow airport, Ecuador says it could take months to weigh up 'risks' and make decision
Edward Snowden's asylum bid appears to be in limbo with the 30-year-old US whistle-blower stuck at a Moscow airport for the fourth night and Ecuador saying it could take months to decide.
"It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time," Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said in Malaysia, in a reference to WikiLeaks site founder Julian Assange.
Asked if Ecuador would provide protection to Snowden while considering his request for asylum, Patino said through a translator that if Snowden "goes to the embassy, then we will make a decision".
Patino refused to say what criteria Ecuador would use but added that his government would "consider all these risks", including concerns that helping Snowden would hurt trade with the US and damage his country's economy. But he also defended Snowden's actions, saying they "shed light" on US practices.
This came as Spain's renowned former human rights judge Baltasar Garzon, who has fought on WikiLeaks' behalf, said his firm had declined to represent Snowden.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he would consider any asylum request from Snowden.
"We have not received an official request. But ... we would evaluate it as we understand Ecuador is doing," Maduro said during a visit to Haiti.
In Hong Kong, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said it was "very disappointing" that the US government had not responded to allegations that Hong Kong was a target of US cybersnooping.
"The security bureau formally wrote to the US government on June 21. We expect the US to give Hong Kong people a full explanation as soon as possible. The government will strongly follow up the case," he said.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said officials were talking with Washington about a possible meeting between John Kerry and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Asean foreign ministers' meeting to be held in Brunei from June 29.
This would be the first high-level meeting between Beijing and Washington since Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Associated Press, Staff Reporters