June 24, 2013, 10:59 AM — Ecuador is considering U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's asylum request and has been maintaining diplomatic contact with Russia, said Ricardo Patiño Aroca, Ecuador's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Integration, on Monday.
"Ecuador is considering Mr. Snowden's asylum request," said Patiño during a press conference in Hanoi during a visit to Vietnam's foreign minister. The event was live-streamed on the Internet in Spanish and an instant English translation was provided by the BBC.
"All of us know he has arrived in the Russian Federation," Patiño said. The Russian government must decide how to handle Snowden in accordance with the country's laws, Patiño said. However, when asked directly, Patiño said he did not know where the leaker was. "Specific information as to his whereabouts ... we can not share that at this moment. We don't have it and we can't share it," Patiño said.
Snowden requested the Ecuadorian government to grant him asylum because the U.S. has announced a criminal investigation against him, he wrote in his asylum request, said Patiño. Because he has been accused of being a traitor, life in prison is among the possible sentences, Snowden wrote, according to Patiño.
In his request, Snowden also mentioned that Ecuador granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is currently staying in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Patiño said. Snowden compared his situation to Bradley Manning's, who leaked U.S. diplomatic cables to Wikileaks and who, Snowden said, was treated inhumanely during his time in a U.S. prison, according to Patiño.
Snowden also said he believes he will not receive a fair trial in the U.S. and thus requested asylum, according to Patiño.
Earlier on Monday, Snowden was reportedly on route to Ecuador from Moscow via Havana. However, he wasn't in the plane that he was thought to be in, according to an Associated Press reporter
Patiño declined to discuss how Snowden would reach Ecuador if his asylum request is granted.
Patiño questioned whether what Snowden did was treason. "We have to ask who has betrayed whom," he said. A global espionage plot like Prism -- the U.S. government's surveillance program, whose details were leaked by Snowden -- does not only affect U.S. citizens but would violate the rights of every citizen in the world, Patiño said. Revealing such a monitoring program might not be treason against the world's citizens but is more likely to be treason against a group of powerful leaders, he suggested.