Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Snowden in a safe place: Assange

The US government has charged Edward Snowden with espionage and theft (AP/The Guardian)
The US government has charged Edward Snowden with espionage and theft (AP/The Guardian)

Intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden is in a safe place, his spirits are high and his journey from Hong Kong to evade the US authorities is a "fascinating story", according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Mr Snowden, who leaked details of secret surveillance operations in the UK and US, fled Hong Kong on Sunday after White House officials requested his extradition, and is believed to be planning to travel to Ecuador, where he has applied for political asylum. He flew to Russia on a commercial flight and stayed at an airport hotel in Moscow.

Mr Assange, who has been staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the past year as part of his own efforts to avoid being extradited to the US, said WikiLeaks had been assisting Mr Snowden with legal advice.

Speaking at a telephone conference call with journalists, Mr Assange accused the US administration of making "extremely bellicose" statements about Mr Snowden and of attempting to "bully" Russia and other countries into extraditing him.

"The US Secretary of State claimed Mr Snowden is a traitor. He is not a traitor, he is not a spy, he is a whistleblower who has told the public an important truth. The charging of Edward Snowden is not a matter of justice - it is an attempt to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights to tell the truth."

Asked if he knew where Mr Snowden was, Mr Assange replied: "He is in a safe place and his spirits are high. Due to the bellicose threats coming from the Obama administration we cannot go into further details."

Asked if he knew how Mr Snowden left Hong Kong, Mr Assange said: "That is a fascinating story which I am sure will one day be told, but today is not the day."

WikiLeaks officials said Mr Snowden had applied for political asylum to Iceland as well as to Ecuador, and had travelled on a refugee document supplied by Ecuador.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for Mr Assange, said: "The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person.

"What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people."

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