National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia Tuesday, saying “he faces persecution by the U.S. government” and “could be subjected to torture and capital punishment.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, provided details about the application to Rossiya 24 television, and WikiLeaks, the anti-government-secrecy group aiding the former government contractor, confirmed the request.
Though he is seeking immediate refuge in Russia, Snowden would like to eventually land in Latin America. Coming out of hiding for the first time in weeks, Snowden on Friday said he had been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
Snowden is trying to devise a path to South America that would avoid U.S. airspace. Since his passport has been revoked, Snowden’s passageway to countries more supportive of his cause is far from guaranteed.
The 30-year-old has been holed up in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23. If granted asylum in Russia, he would be allowed to leave the airport and travel throughout the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said he would grant Snowden asylum only if the former government contractor agreed to stop leaking American secrets. If Putin approves Snowden’s application, it would add even more friction to an already frosty relationship between Russia and the U.S. government.
Ever since Snowden disclosed details about expansive U.S. phone and Internet surveillance programs, the Obama administration has demanded that other countries help extradite the ex-CIA official back to the United States to face espionage charges.