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PIC: This is what Edward Snowden looks like after 19 days in a Moscow airport

Human Rights Watch has issued a picture of the US fugitive after he met with rights activists in the Moscow airport where he is based today.

Ken Roth/Human Rights Watch

Updated 5.10pm

FUGITIVE US INTELLIGENCE leaker Edward Snowden has told a group of activists in a meeting at a Moscow airport that he wants to claim asylum in Russia because he is unable to fly on anywhere else.

Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina told the Interfax news agency that Snowden told participants “he wants to stay here” while public chamber state advisory body member Olga Kostina told ITAR-TASS that Snowden would request asylum in Russia.

Speaking to rights activists, Snowden said he was prevented by Western governments from flying to the Latin American countries that have offered him asylum.

He said he was submitting a request to stay Russia “until such time as these (Western) states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted”, according to a transcript of his remarks released by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Snowden also hit out at the US for claiming that secret court rulings make their surveillance programmes legal, saying: “These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done.”

He said he had not attempted to enrich himself by revealing secrets and denied that he had partnered with any foreign government to guarantee his safety.

Snowden today met around a dozen Russian rights activists, lawyers and other figures in a closed-door meeting at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, an official said.

Asylum offers

The former NSA employee said that a number of countries including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have offered him asylum and he accepted all of these offers.

However he said that he could not travel to Latin or Central America as there is an “unlawful threat” to arrest him if he attempts such travel.

Russia has said that if he stops issuing leaks that damage the United States, he can stay. Snowden told rights activists in a Moscow airport that he is seeking asylum in Russia.

“Mr. Snowden could hypothetically stay in Russia if he: first, completely stops the activities harming our American partners and US-Russian relations and second, if he asks for this himself,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

According to lawyer Genri Reznik who was present at a meeting at Moscow airport with Snowden and spoke to reporters afterwards, the fugitive “promised that he would not act to harm the United States”.

Lokshina told journalists after meeting with Snowden in the Sheremetyevo airport transit zone that she received a call before the meeting from the US embassy in Moscow, asking her to pass on a message to the fugitive.

“They said: could you pass this along on behalf of the US ambassador (Michael McFaul) that the position of US authorities is… that he is not a rights activist, not a whistleblower… that he violated law and therefore has to be brought to justice,” Lokshina said.

However, McFaul has contacted the New Yorker magazine reporter Ryan Lizza to say he did not contact Lokshina.

- additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell

First published 3.56pm

Read: Edward Snowden ‘has accepted an asylum offer from Venezuela’, or has he?

Ireland: High Court refuses arrest warrant for Snowden

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