WikiLeaks plane 'ready' to bring Snowden to Iceland
REYKJAVIK, June 21, 2013
First Published: 07:55 IST(21/6/2013)
Last Updated: 09:20 IST(21/6/2013)
A chartered private jet is ready to bring US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to Iceland from Hong Kong, a businessman connected to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said on Thursday.
"Everything is ready on our side and the plane could take off tomorrow,"
Icelandic businessman Olafur Sigurvinsson, head of WikiLeaks partner firm DataCell, told Channel2 television.
"We have really done all we can do. We have a plane and all the logistics in place. Now we are only awaiting a response from the (Icelandic) government," added the boss of Datacell, which handles donations to WikiLeaks.
The private jet belongs to a Chinese firm and has been chartered at a cost of more than $240,000 thanks to individual contributions received by Datacell, he said.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday he had been in contact with representatives of Snowden to discuss his possible bid for asylum in Iceland following his disclosure of US surveillance programmes.
Former US government contractor Snowden, who turns 30 on Friday, fled to Hong Kong on May 20. The United States has yet to file any formal extradition request after his bombshell leak of the National Security Agency programmes.
Iceland has said it held informal talks with an intermediary of Snowden over the possibility of seeking political asylum, but that he must present himself on Icelandic soil.
Snowden has expressed an interest in taking refuge in Iceland, saying it is a country that stands up for Internet freedoms.
However, observers say Iceland's new centre-right coalition may be less willing to anger the United States than its leftist predecessor.
Interior Minister Hanna Kristjansdottir said Tuesday that the government did not feel bound by a 2010 resolution by parliament seeking to make the country a safe haven for journalists and whistleblowers from around the globe.
"The resolution is not a part of the laws that apply to asylum seekers," she told public broadcaster RUV.
Sigurvinsson said it was unlikely that Snowden would travel to Iceland without receiving a green light from the government in Reykjavik.
"It would be stupid to come here only to be extradited to the United States. In that case he'd be better off where he is," the businessman said.
Snowden has gone to ground in Hong Kong, surfacing to conduct media interviews from undisclosed locations.
Assange this week marked a year in refuge at the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Sweden wants to put him on trial for rape, but the WikiLeaks founder says the prosecution is politically motivated.