After departing from Russia the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to landing in Austria Wednesday morning over suspicions that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board, a claim Bolivian and Austrian officials refuted.
Snowden had requested asylum from Bolivia, which has yet to answer; he also petitioned Austria but was rejected. Reports indicated the plane was hindered in navigating Western Europe as France and Portugal would not allow the La Paz-bound plane to enter their airspace.
David Choquehuanca, the Bolivian Foregin Minister, refuted the idea Snowden was on the plane, saying“we don’t know who invited this lie, but we want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales.”
“This is a lie, a falsehood. It was generated by the US government,” Bolivian Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra told CNN. “It t is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation.”
Ecuador also suggested an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) after the incident Tuesday.
Austrian ministry officials have confirmed that Snowden was not on Morales’ plane, according to AFP.
“President Morales will leave early Wednesday morning for La Paz,” Austrian ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg said. He denied any knowledge of why the plane landed there.
The rare instance of two countries denying airspace to the leader of a non-adversarial country is indicative of Snowden’s current situation. Morales previously told RT that Bolivia would consider granting Snowden asylum if he were to make such a request.
“It is possible that they want to intimidate us due to the statement made by President Morales that we would analyze an asylum request from Mr. Snowden,” said Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra.
“We have the suspicion that [France and Portugal] were used by a foreign power, in this case the United States, as a way of intimidating the Bolivian state and President Evo Morales.” Saavedra confirmed that Italy had also denied Bolivia’s aircraft entry into its airspace.
According to the Associated Press, Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has rejected any claims that the plane carrying the Bolivian head of state was denied entry over France and Portugal for anything other than political reasons.
“They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane … We don’t know who invented this lie,” said Choquehuanca.
Meanwhile, the number of countries that would agree to provide asylum to Snowden continues to decrease by the day.
Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, speaking with RT, said he would leave the decision up to the Venezuelan people.
“If Snowden stays alone, he will be destroyed,” he said. “But what kind of crimes did he commit? What kind of bombs did he explode or what kind of missiles did he launch? He tries to fight against controlling weak countries. This is why we say that we share what this young man says and that protecting Snowden will protect peace.”