Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered asylum to former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on Friday in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of a secret spy program.
“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden," Maduro told a military parade marking Venezuela’s independence day.
“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the U.S. spying on the whole world.”
The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport.
Russian officials have kept Snowden at arm’s length since he landed from Hong Kong on June 23, saying the transit area where passengers stay between flights is neutral territory and he will be on Russian soil only if he goes through passport control.
It was not immediately clear how Snowden would react to Maduro’s offer, nor reach Venezuela if he accepted.
WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, said on Friday that Snowden had asked six more nations for asylum, bringing to about 20 the number of countries he has appealed to for protection from U.S. espionage charges.
Maduro said Venezuela was ready to offer him sanctuary, and that the details Snowden had revealed of a U.S. spy program had exposed the nefarious schemes of the U.S. “empire.”