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July 03, 2013

Bolivian President's Plane Rerouted Over Snowden Suspicions

by VOA News

Bolivian President Evo Morales remains in Austria more than 12 hours after his plane was diverted following suspicions it was carrying fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Officials say Snowden is not on board the plane, which landed in Austria after France and Portugal apparently refused to let it cross their air space.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca called suspicions that Snowden was on the plane a "huge lie" and said forcing the plane to land in Austria put the Bolivian leader's life in danger. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner tweeted that she had been in contact with Morales while he was stuck in Austria.

Morales was flying home from a summit in Moscow, where Snowden has been stuck in the international transit area at Sheremetyevo airport since fleeing Hong Kong more than a week ago. Morales had said he would consider granting Snowden asylum if a request is made.

Snowden's prospects for asylum are narrowing, with several of the at least 19 countries he is considering saying he cannot request asylum until he is on their soil or rejecting him outright.

On Tuesday, a Russian official said Snowed dropped his bid for asylum in Russia after President Vladimir Putin said he could stay in the country only if he stopped leaking sensitive U.S. intelligence.

Putin has said Russia has no plans to turn Snowden over to the United States.

​​The anti-secrecy group that has supported Snowden, WikiLeaks, says it has submitted more asylum requests on Snowden's behalf. It said these requests were in addition to earlier asylum requests to Ecuador and Iceland.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that Snowden "deserves the world's protection." He said Snowden did not kill anyone and did not "plant a bomb." President Maduro commented in Moscow, where he met with Putin.

Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who leaked secret intelligence information, faces U.S. espionage charges.