Stateless in Moscow: Germany Rejects Asylum for Snowden

Germany joined several other countries on Tuesday in rejecting Edward Snowden's asylum application. Zoom
REUTERS

Germany joined several other countries on Tuesday in rejecting Edward Snowden's asylum application.

Germany has rejected NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's application for asylum, joining several other nations that refused to accept him on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bolivian President Morales was forced to make a stop in Vienna due to rumors the whistleblower was on board his plane.

Germany on Tuesday evening became just the latest country to reject NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's application for asylum, with the Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry in Berlin issuing a joint statement saying that "the conditions for admittance are not fulfilled."

The decision came just hours before a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, on its way from Moscow back to South America, was forced to land in Vienna just after midnight after France and Portugal had closed its airspace to the plane due to rumors that Snowden was on board. Morales had already taken off from Moscow -- where Snowden is currently staying at the Sheremetyevo Airport -- when Bolivian officials were informed that he would not be allowed to pass over France and they re-routed to Vienna.

The suspicions proved incorrect, and South American leaders are furious. Leaders from both Ecuador and Argentina have called for an extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to discuss the incident. The Venezuelan government added that it was a clear violation of the diplomatic immunity that all heads of state enjoy.

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Photo Gallery: Morales Forced to Land in Vienna
Germany's rejection of Snowden's asylum request was not unexpected. The former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA) is wanted by the US for having revealed in recent weeks the country's far-reaching electronic surveillance and spying operations abroad. He applied for asylum in 21 countries on Tuesday morning, including several in Europe. So far, however, he has received only rejections.

Only Venezuela has said that it was willing in principle, though no official decision has been made.

Germany, however, spent much of Tuesday agonizing over his request. It was clear from the outset that European Union rules, which stipulate that those applying for asylum must be on the territory or at the border of the state with which they intend to submit an application, prohibited Berlin from granting political asylum. But many political leaders, particularly from Germany's Green Party, had demanded that Snowden be allowed to come to Germany on humanitarian grounds. Some Green Party leaders also pointed out that Snowden is an important witness in a significant case of espionage involving German interests and should be brought to Germany as a witness.

'Don't Do Anything'

Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, for example, said on Tuesday: "With even federal prosecutors investigating possible espionage against Germany, the government shouldn't just offer Snowden asylum, but also -- as with the tax informants in Switzerland -- perhaps even witness protection." Ströbele was referring to CDs obtained by German officials in recent years containing the names and bank account details of people suspected of having evaded German taxes.

The Greens aren't the only party in Germany that has exhibited sympathy for Snowden and his plight. The center-left Social Democrats demanded on Tuesday that his asylum application be carefully examined and the Free Democrats (FDP), Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner, also showed no inclination to reject Snowden out of hand. Many FDP leaders have been particularly strident in their criticism of US spying in recent days. Among Merkel's conservatives, several politicians have expressed respect for Snowden.

Top Green Party politicians on Tuesday evening were sharply critical of the decision to reject Snowden's application. "Angela Merkel's rejection of accepting Edward Snowden shows the vast hypocrisy of this government," said Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Jürgen Trittin, the party's top candidates in the campaign, in a joint statement. "They display indignation but don't do anything."

Both center-right and center-left politicians in Germany defended Berlin's decision on Wednesday. Senior Christian Democrat Michael Grosse-Brömer said on public television on Wednesday that the decision was "legally based," adding that Snowden did not fulfill the conditions for asylum.

Social Democrat Dieter Wiefelspütz, the party's domestic policy spokesman, said in an interview with the Mitteldeutschen Zeitung: "I cannot see that the man is being politically persecuted. He likely betrayed state secrets due to reasons of conscience. He is perhaps a hero of freedom. But that doesn't protect him from legal consequences."

cgh -- with wire reports

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1. Germany a vassal state now?
greanknight 07/03/2013
I expect the NSA has already gathered enough on every European head of state to make them turn their country from a democracy into a vassal state of the USA. Name a more legitimate political refugee than Snowden. You can't. So what if there is a criminal charge against him. There are criminal charges against most genuine true political refugees.
2. Social Democrat quote only balanced part of article
burtone76 07/03/2013
Hopefully this newspaper either doesn't represent common German opinion or there are translating errors because the one sided nature of this event at least as covered by this paper makes Germans look extremely hypocritical and anti-American. He is not simply a whistle blower that needs rescuing from his "plight". He worked for a spy agency and then as a contractor for another spy agency where he A) knew that he was going to be spying. B) Had to have signed numerous documents stating that he wouldn't leak the information. I am a democrat and have pretty liberal views, and usually side with the ACLU, disagreed with the Patriot Act, but the fact of the matter is you can't leak state information when you are employed in state organization, there are going to be consequences. Good for him for doing what he thought was right but you can't work for a spy agency either as an employee and contractor and then complain that the agency is (gasp) spying on people.
3.
jfl 07/03/2013
America is full of such people. If this happened under George Bush Snowden would be a hero ! but it happened under Barack Obama so Snowden is a traitor. And the German Social Democrats seem cut from the same cloth. Barack Obama and the NSA and the Senate and House 'oversight' committees ... and the FISA court judges are the traitors. Edward Snowden is a hero for exposing the treachery of the USG in all its branches. It's a pity the Germans have caved in. Gerhard Schroeder was apparently the last German who had enough backbone to stand up to the US and call it on its crimes.
4. Germany capitulates again.
dramapsych 07/03/2013
wow so Deutschland is Amerika's BEATCH? When members of the Green, Free and even conservative parties support asylum, one can only surmise the reason for rejecting asylum request is capitulation to the imperialist yankees (i write this as an expat American living in Germany). Is it not ironic that once people sought political asylum refuge IN America, now some seek ayslum FROM America. My how the world has changed.
5. To Burtone76
indapalenzu 07/03/2013
I think this paper makes German look neither hypocritical nor anti American. It doesn't. It isn't a matter of 'complaining about the agency spying on people', but a matter of an agency spying on everybody, everywhere and everytime. Spying to fight against terrorism is as necessary as legitimate, and any leak of information must be 'rooted out'. Had Snowden signed tons of documents swearing he wouldn't leak information ever? Of course he had. But he hasn't leaked 'state information'. None of my phone conversations or emails are 'state information'. I love and admire America, and thinking like that doesn't make me 'Antiamerican'
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