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Bern denies getting Snowden asylum request

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Bern denies getting Snowden asylum request
Photo: The Guardian/AFP
21:45 CEST+02:00
The Swiss federal migration office said on Tuesday that it had not received an application for asylum from American fugitive Edward Snowden, accused by US authorities of violating espionage laws.

WikiLeaks said Snowden, the IT specialist charged with leaking information about the global surveillance operations of US intelligence agencies, had sought asylum from 21 countries, including Switzerland.

WikiLeaks, a non-profit website that publishes leaked documents and secret information from anonymous sources, cited a number of other European countries that the former CIA employee who worked indirectly for the US National Security Agency applied to.

These included Austria, Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.

But the Swiss migration office told the ATS news agency it had not received any such demand from Snowden, who has been stuck in a transit area of Moscow’s airport for the past eight days.

WikiLeaks said Snowden’s requests were made through the Russian consulate at the airport, which had begun to transmit them to the various embassies involved.

He also made requests to countries in Latin America, South America and China.

Experts appear to believe that Snowden, who claims he worked as an agent for the CIA with diplomatic cover in Geneva from 2007 to 2009, has little chance of securing asylum in Switzerland.

The fact he has applied for asylum in many countries “is the first problem,” Cesla Amarelle, a Socialist federal MP from Vaud is quoted as saying by Tamedia’s Newsnet.

“By virtue of the Dublin accords, you can seek asylum in one country alone, requests being invalid in other countries,” Amarelle said.

The other problem for Snowden relates to the motive for his asylum request.

The applicant must show that he is persecuted in his country of origin, or that there are chances of this happening.

However, the US is a democratic country with a rule of law, Christophe Tafelmacher, a Lausanne lawyer who specializes in asylum law, told Newsnet.

It is rare to see asylum granted to applicants from democratic countries.

In a letter to Poland, another country where Snowden sought asylum, he writes that there is a risk of being persecuted in the US for having made public what he calls “serious violations” of the American constitution.

Swiss politicians appear divided over whether Switzerland should offer a refuge for Snowden.

Switzerland doe not have to be proactive in the case “but if a request is made then we must absolutely engage in the case,” Carlo Sommaruga said.

The former spy has “denounced major dysfunctions of a state under rule of law that violated the sovereignty of other countries”, he said.

Sommaruga compared Snowden to dissident Chinese or citizens who denounced the Soviet system, Newsnet reported.

But other Swiss politicians disagreed with this analysis, suggesting there was no criteria for admitting Snowden into the country.

The same debates were being held in other European countries, where he has gained sympathy and support for his role in revealing American espionage around the world.

But the New York Times reported on Tuesday that options were narrowing for Snowden, with nine countries reacting unfavourably to his asylum requests, while the Kremlin said he had withdrawn his application to Russia.

Venezuela and Bolivia are the only countries, so far, to offer signs of support.

Other nations, such as Austria, Germany and Spain, said Snowden’s application was not properly submitted because he did not make it in person.

Meanwhile, Switzerland is still seeking answers from Washington over revelations by Snowden that the CIA recruited a banker in Geneva as an informant about tax evasion by Americans stashing money in Swiss banks.

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