JULIAN Assange says he is proud that WikiLeaks has helped US leaker Edward Snowden escape from Hong Kong and seek refuge in Ecuador.
The United States is demanding Snowden, charged with revealing vast US surveillance, “not be allowed to proceed further” overseas after the former spy landed in Moscow.
But Assange’s WikiLeaks organisation on Sunday insisted Snowden was bound for Ecuador “via a safe route” escorted by the organisation’s own legal advisers and diplomats.
“Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.”
Assange’s lawyer, former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, said the US’s pursuit of Snowden and his client for disclosing information in the public interest was “an assault against the people”.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for over a year.
His is wanted in Sweden over sexual assault allegations but was granted diplomatic asylum by the South American country in mid-August 2012.
The Australian has told Fairfax Media he is “thankful and proud of the courage of WikiLeaks’ staff and all those who have assisted Snowden’s exit from Hong Kong”.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino confirmed via Twitter that “the government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward Snowden”.
Patino last week met Assange at his country’s diplomatic mission in the UK.
Later he hinted at what could be to come when he told reporters: “If he (Snowden) applies for asylum in Ecuador then … shouldering its full responsibility the Ecuadorean government will analyse the request”.
Assange on Saturday said US President Barack Obama had betrayed younger generations.
It was outrageous Snowden was being charged with espionage “when the US government is spying on each and every one of us”, the former computer hacker said in speech that was meant to be delivered from the embassy’s balcony, but was published online instead, due to an undisclosed “security situation”.
“The charging of Edward Snowden is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights,” Assange said.
“That tactic must not be allowed to work.”
Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong to reveal sensational details of cyber-espionage by the US, flew to Russia on Sunday on a commercial flight.
He is spending the night in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and is booked on an Aeroflot flight to Cuba on Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax have reported.
Aeroflot has no direct flights from Moscow to Quito in Ecuador. Travellers would have to make connections in Paris, Rome or Washington DC, which could be problematic for Snowden. – AAP