Purported E-Mail From Snowden Asks for Meeting With Rights Groups

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MOSCOW -- Officials at Sheremetyevo Airport here in Moscow said that Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive American intelligence contractor, planned to meet with representatives of international human rights organizations at the airport on Friday afternoon, breaking his silence after spending nearly three weeks in the airport's transit zone.

Anna Zakharenkova, the airport's director of public relations, said that the rights workers will gather in Terminal F at 5 p.m., to be escorted through security and passport control and into the transit zone, where they will have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Snowden.

Several prominent human-rights organizations received e-mailed invitations late on Thursday to meet with Mr. Snowden, though they were initially doubtful about the e-mails' origin.

No invitation was extended to Russian officials, said Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. Journalists who asked to be included were told that Mr. Snowden's team "will be following up with the press shortly afterward."

Mr. Snowden has been staying at the airport, evidently in its transit zone, since flying in from Hong Kong on June 23. Though he apparently intended to board a connecting flight headed to Latin America, he then found himself in geopolitical limbo, because the United States voided his passport and he carried no valid identification.

The United States has conducted a diplomatic full-court press in an effort to prevent Mr. Snowden from receiving asylum in Bolivia, Nicaragua or Venezuela, three left-leaning governments who have said they would take him in.

Sergei Nikitin, an official at Amnesty International, said he planned to go to the airport in hopes of making contact.

"I have no way to confirm it, I am proceeding from the notion that the letter came from the person who signed it," he said. "If it's a trick, that's sad." He added that Amnesty International had spoken out forcefully in support of Mr. Snowden's right to political asylum.

Russia's human rights commissioner, Vladimir P. Lukin, also said that he was prepared to meet with Mr. Snowden.

"I want to hear him out and then think what should be done," Mr. Lukin told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. "I think international organizations should take up this question," he said, adding "Snowden now is clearly in the situation of being a refugee from his country."

Representatives of Human Rights Watch and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees confirmed that they had received the invitation to a meeting late on Thursday. A note accompanying the invitation condemned efforts by the United States government to prevent Mr. Snowden from receiving political asylum in other countries.

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who received an invitation, said she had doubts about its authenticity but said that she would attend. "I'm not sure this is for real, but compelled to give it a try," she wrote in a post on Facebook. "I wouldn't want to create an impression that HRW is not interested in what Snowden has to say."

The e-mail, signed "Edward Joseph Snowden," said he had "been extremely fortunate to enjoy and accept many offers of support and asylum from brave countries around the world," and that he hoped to visit each of them personally to express his thanks. It went on to say that the American government had carried out an "unlawful campaign" to block his asylum bids.

"The scale of threatening behavior is without precedent: never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign president's plane to effect a search for a political refugee," the note said. "I invite the human rights organizations or other respected individuals addressed to join me on 12 July at 5:00 p.m. at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation."

The message referred to an episode on July 2 in which a plane carrying President Evo Morales back to Bolivia from Moscow was rerouted after being denied entry into the airspace of France and Portugal because of suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on board.

Galina Negrustuyeva, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees mission in Moscow, said the organization's representatives had not been able to confirm that the invitation was from Mr. Snowden and had not decided whether to attend. Ms. Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who also received an invitation, said she had doubts about the statement, which she described as "very awkward, very strange."

Mr. Snowden is wanted by the United States on charges of revealing classified government information about global American surveillance programs.

Andrew Roth contributed reporting.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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