Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño held a press conference Monday on former government contractor Edward Snowden’s asylum request. He was speaking from Hanoi, where he was on a trade mission. Here are excerpts, translated from Spanish by the Washington Post:
Patiño started out by saying that Snowden had requested asylum, and he then read what he said was Snowden’s letter to Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa:
“I, Edward Snowden, citizen of the United States of America, write to you to request asylum from the Republic of Ecuador because of the pursuit by the government of the United States and its agents in relation to my decision to make public grave violations by the United States of America of its constitution, namely the fourth and fifth amendments.”
“As a result of my political opinions and the exercising of my rights of free expression through which I have shown how the United States is intercepting the majority of the communications of the world, the government of the United States has publicly announced a criminal investigation against me. Also, prominent figures in the Congress of the United States of America as well as different media outlets have accused me of being a traitor. And they have made a call that I be jailed or executed …”
According to Patiño, Snowden then went on to say that charges against him come from a 1917 espionage law that could lead to a life sentence. He goes on to note in the letter than the investigation is taking place in Alexandria and that a jury there would “very probably contain members of the CIA, the Pentagon and numerous agencies of the government.” He says that it’s the same jurisdiction where WikiLeaks is being investigated.
The foreign minister said Snowden describes his case as being similar to that of Bradley Manning, the soldier who “revealed presumed crimes of war.” “He was arrested by the government of the United States of America and he received inhumane treatment during his solitary confinement....I believe that under these and other circumstances of this case [meaning his own, Snowden’s case], it’s improbable that I would receive a fair trial or humane treatment before the trial, while running the risk of a life term or death.”
After reading parts of the letter, Patiño then addressed reporters, telling them that Ecuador acts based on principles “enshrined in its constitution and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” He said that “the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be placed by Ecuador’s government over other interests that may be planted or by pressures that might be exerted.”
Patiño spoke about the “paradox” of Snowden’s case. “The man who is trying to shine a light and show transparency over acts that have affected the fundamental liberty of all people is now being pursued by those who should be giving explanations to governments and the citizens of the world about the denunciations presented by Mr. Snowden. But it’s a paradox of life that now the whistleblower is being chased by the one being accused.”
Patiño talked about how “the word treason” has been tossed around recently. “We’d like to reflect,” he went on. “We have to ask who is betraying whom? Aren’t some citizens especially loyal to their fellow citizens and the rest of humanity for revealing risks and dangers that affect us all?”
“There is a denunciation of a secret plan of world spying,” Patiño said. “It affects all the citizens of the world, and it’s violating the rights of all the citizens of the world. Is it betraying all the citizens of the world or betraying the elites in power of a given country? What is the concept of treason?”
Patiño said that the world would have avoided terrible suffering had the “absolutely false information” presented by the Bush administration before the Iraq war been publicly known.
“The question is treason against what, against whom? Do we betray principles, betray the principles of the interests of humanity or do we believe that in one case there is betrayal of the interests of the elites in power of one country?”
He also went into some detail on how Ecuador’s constitution protects people like Snowden and how Ecuador does not consider people without papers to be “illegal.”
“We consider that they have a migratory condition that are irregular,” he explained. During a question and answer session, he declined to say where Snowden was at the moment or when Ecuador would announce its decision on the asylum bid.
Lastly, he added that the U.S., though its ambassador in Quito, has been in touch with Ecuador about the case.