Icelandic lawmakers introduced a proposal in Parliament on Thursday to grant immediate citizenship to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who admits to revealing key details of U.S. surveillance activities.
Ogmundur Jonasson, whose liberal Left-Green Party is backing the proposal along with the Pirate Party and Brighter Future Party, put the issue before the Judicial Affairs Committee, but the idea received minimal support.
Snowden is believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from more than a dozen countries. At one point, he told the Guardian newspaper that he was inclined to seek asylum in a country that shared his values — and that "the nation that most encompasses this is Iceland."
But to apply for asylum in Iceland, Snowden would have to reach the island nation's soil.
Granting Snowden immediate citizenship would circumvent that issue. The same tactic helped get eccentric chess master Bobby Fischer to Iceland from Japan in 2005 to escape U.S. prosecution for breaking sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia.
Jonasson argued to parliament on Thursday that Snowden "is now being chased and has nowhere to go," according to Icelandic media.
Leaks by Snowden, a former NSA systems analyst, have revealed the NSA's sweeping data collection of U.S. phone records and some internet traffic, though U.S. intelligence officials have said the programs are aimed at targeting foreigners and terrorist suspects mostly overseas.
The proposal to grant Snowden citizenship received limited support when it was discussed Thursday — the last day before summer recess. Six members of minority parties were in favor out of Parliament's 63 members.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret spilling website that has been advising him. Like Iceland, many European countries on the list — including Austria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland — said he would have to make his request on their soil.
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Bolivian President Evo Morales warned on Thursday that he could close the U.S. Embassy in his country, as South America's leftist leaders rallied to support him after his presidential plane was rerouted amid suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board.
Morales again blamed Washington for pressuring European countries to refuse to allow his plane to fly through their airspace on Tuesday, forcing it to land in Vienna, Austria, in what he called a violation of international law. He had been returning from a summit in Russia during which he had suggested he would be willing to consider a request from Snowden for asylum.
Late Thursday, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez demanded an apology on Bolivia's behalf for the plane incident.
"I'm asking those who violated the law in calm but serious manner, to take responsibility for the errors made. It's the least they can do," Fernandez said. "To apologize for once in their life, to say they're sorry for what they've done."