Edward Snowden seeks meeting with human rights groups, report says

<i>This post has been updated. See the note below for details.</i>

MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden, the self-professed leaker of classified National Security Agency documents that revealed secret U.S. government phone and Internet surveillance programs, has asked for a meeting with lawyers and human rights activists, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Friday.

Snowden, a fugitive from U.S. authorities, is apparently still holed up in the transit zone at Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport, an airport official said, according to Interfax. The former national security consultant arrived at the airport on June 23 after a period in hiding in Hong Kong.

U.S. officials have vowed to pursue and extradite Snowden, who was charged by federal prosecutors last month with two violations of the Espionage Act and the theft of government property.

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The request for a meeting was sent to Russian representatives of Amnesty International, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, a Polish civil rights group and a U.N. representative in Russia. Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin was also invited, the Interfax report said.


Snowden also intends to make a statement, the details of which were not disclosed, the report said.

Snowden “intends to express his attitude toward a maniacal persecution campaign unleashed against him by the U.S. administration resulting from which passengers of air flights bound for Latin America are exposed to danger,” the unnamed airport official told Interfax.

A meeting between Snowden and representatives of the human rights groups was set to take place at 4:30 p.m. local time at the Sheremetyevo transit zone, a Foreign Ministry official said.

However, it remains unclear whether the invited parties can enter the transit zone of the airport without possessing traveling documents and having their passports exit-stamped, the official said.

“Other than that, Snowden is a free man, as our president [Vladimir Putin] pointed out, and can make statements,” the official told The Times on condition of anonymity. “However, I think he will heed our advice and refrain from any more leaks, which can do harm to our U.S. partners while he is here.”

[Updated, 4:36 a.m. PDT July 12: In a letter to the human rights organizations, the text of which was provided to the Times, Snowden thanked the “brave countries around the world” that have offered him asylum.

“By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world,” Snowden said in the letter.

“Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Snowden said.

He referenced the July 3 forced grounding of a flight out of Moscow that had Bolivian President Evo Morales on board. The flight was forced to land in Vienna in connection with suspicions the plane might be carrying Snowden to a welcoming Central American or South American country.

“Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” Snowden said of the incident.

Snowden said the purported attempts by the U.S. to extradite him represented “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.”]


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