Ecuador official appears sympathetic to Edward Snowden

QUITO, Ecuador -- A top government official said Monday that Ecuador is still considering Edward Snowden’s request for political asylum, appearing to take a sympathetic stance while criticizing the United States and those who portray the leaker as a traitor.

Speaking to reporters in Hanoi, where he is making an official visit, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Snowden’s revelations of alleged U.S. government surveillance of messages and telephone calls could shed light on large-scale violations of human rights and privacy laws. For his actions, Snowden could face espionage charges in the United States, Patino noted.

“So one has to ask who has betrayed whom? You have to ask, what is the concept of betrayal here?” Patino said, adding: “We will act on the basis of principles of human rights written in our constitution, not on whatever interests of others.”

Patino said the asylum decision would take into account several considerations, including the “dangers of new technologies…. Everyone has the right to be protected from interference.” Patino also noted that the U.S. has turned down several extradition requests of Ecuadorean suspects wanted on suspicion of financial crimes.

Patino also described in some detail the letter that Snowden had written to President Rafael Correa requesting asylum, in which the contractor said he feared he would be executed or given a life prison term if he is returned to the United States.

Patino said Snowden also mentioned what he described as the harsh treatment that U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning had received after his arrest on charges of facilitating WikiLeaks disclosures of classified U.S. military information and videos.

“In Ecuador we don’t consider anyone as illegal for their migratory situation,” Patino said, a reference to the country’s liberal border policy, by which citizens of most countries can enter Ecuador without a visa.

Asked whether he knew Snowden’s whereabouts, Patino said he could not provide that information.


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