Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor, deserved the “world’s protection” for divulging details of Washington’s spy programme.
Snowden, wanted by Washington on spying charges for revealing the secret U.S. electronic surveillance programme
Prism, has applied for political asylum in 19 countries, including Russia, in his search for safety.
He is currently in legal limbo in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
Breaking his silence on Monday after almost nine days in Sheremetyevo airport, the 30-year-old challenged Washington by
saying he was free to publish more about its spy programmes - something which ruled out a prolonged stay in Russia.
A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said the 30-year-old, who worked for the National Security Agency as a
contractor in Hawaii, withdrew his request when the Russian leader said he should give up his “anti-American activity”.
But while countries lined up to deny receiving asylum requests, Venezuela, part of an alliance of leftist governments
in Latin America, said it was time to stop berating a man who has “done something very important for humanity”.
“He deserves the world’s protection. He has not asked us for it yet. When he does we will give our answer,” Maduro told
Reuters during a visit to Moscow.
He said he would consider an asylum application if Snowden made one after his request for safety in Ecuador, which has
sheltered the founder of antisecrecy group WikiLeaks Julian Assange in its London embassy, had apparently ended.
Washington has made clear to a number of countries that granting him asylum would carry costs.