An Ecuadorean diplomatic employee issued a safe conduct pass for US National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to seek political asylum, but the action was unauthorised and the pass has no validity, government officials said yesterday.
Quito had denied that it provided the fugitive with any travel papers following comments by WikiLeaks that he left Hong Kong on a refugee document supplied by Ecuador. The website run by Julian Assange is helping Snowden avoid US capture.
Ecuadorean officials have repeatedly expressed sympathy for Snowden for revealing secret global US surveillance programmes, but insist they have taken no decision on granting him asylum, and they rushed to distance themselves from an unsigned letter shown by Univision. The document posted by the television network was issued on June 22 from Ecuador's general consulate in London. The text is in both English and Spanish.
"The general consul of Ecuador in London grants this SAFEPASS to the below mentioned citizen. This document is granted to allow the bearer to travel to the territory of Ecuador for the purpose of political asylum," it said.
Secretary of Political Management Betty Tola said "any document of this type has no validity and is the exclusive responsibility of the person who issued it".
Another government official said the was issued without approval from the Foreign Ministry or other officials in the capital and thus has no legal power.
Tola said Snowden's asylum application had not been processed because he was not in Ecuador as required by law. She threatened legal action against whoever leaked the document.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse