MOSCOW (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that Caracas had not yet received a request for political asylum from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden and would decide on it only when it did.
Maduro voiced sympathy with Snowden's actions and described him as a champion of human rights. That suggested Venezuela may help Snowden, who is stranded in Moscow after flying there from Hong Kong on June 23, to find a safe harbor.
"He deserves the world's protection. He has not asked us for it yet. When he does we will give our answer," Maduro told Reuters during a visit to Moscow, when asked whether Venezuela could offer Snowden asylum.
"We think this young person has done something very important for humanity, has done a favor to humanity, has spoken great truths to deconstruct a world that ... is controlled by an imperialist American elite," he said.
Snowden, 30, who faces espionage charges in the United States and is believed to be staying in a transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, has had his U.S. passport revoked and countries around the world are under U.S. pressure to deny him asylum.
WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization whose British legal researcher Sarah Harrison is assisting Snowden, disclosed on Monday that he had prepared requests for asylum in more than a dozen countries, including Venezuela.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Douglas Busvine)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp