Ecuador granted a refugee document to former security contractor Edward Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for making public classified information, so that he could travel abroad to another country after Washington had revoked his passport, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño told reporters in Hanoi, where he is on an official visit, that the Ecuadorian government was considering Snowden’s petition for asylum.
“The one who was denounced is now chasing after the person who denounced them,” he said in reference to the United States international manhunt for the former National Security Agency contractor.
Neither Patiño nor Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblower website, revealed where the 29-year-old American is located. Snowden is supposed to have left Hong Kong, where he was hiding out, and was reported to have traveled to Moscow, apparently en route to Havana. But the seat he had reserved on the flight to Cuba was empty when the plane took off and his whereabouts are unknown.
“He is safe and sound,” said Assange in a telephone conference with reporters from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June 2012.
Assange said that just because Snowden received the travel document from the Quito government doesn’t necessarily mean he will travel to Ecuador.
The WikiLeaks organization, meanwhile, has asked Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón to coordinate Snowden’s legal defense team in the same manner he did with Assange.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa posted on his Twitter account that his government “would act responsibly in analyzing his asylum request. “We will make a decision we feel will be the most adequate and with absolute sovereignty,” he wrote.
Meanwhile in Washington, White House officials slammed the Chinese government for allowing Snowden to escape from Hong Kong and called on Moscow to expel him. Russia has said it has no knowledge of Snowden’s presence on its soil, suggesting he may have remained in Moscow airport's transit area.