Snowden Asylum: Bolivian President’s Plane Diverted

Above photo: The Bolivian minister of foreign affairs, David Choquehuanca, speaks during a press conference in La Paz, Bolivia, Photograph: MARTIN ALIPAZ/EPA

France and Portugal refused to let Evo Morales’s plane cross their airspace because of suspicions that NSA leaker Edward Snowden was on board, Bolivia’s foreign minister says

7:30 pm EST:  The plane carrying the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, from Russia has been rerouted to Austria, following suspicions that the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board, leading to a major diplomatic incident.

The Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, said French and Portuguese authorities refused to allow the plane to fly through their airspace. He added that rumours Snowden was on board were unfounded.

“We don’t know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales,” Choquehuanca told Associated Press.

7:47 pm EST: CNN has interviewed the Bolivian defence minister, Ruben Saavedra, who has expressed outrage at the decision to reroute the president’s plane. He said the US government was behind the rumours that Snowden was on board.

“This is a lie, a falsehood,” he said. “It was generated by the US government.”

He added: It is an outrage. It is an abuse. It is a violation of the conventions and agreements of international air transportation

8:06 pm EST: Associated Press has published extracts from a statement issued by the Bolivian defence minister, Ruben Saavedra, who was also on the redirected plane.

It says the plane was allowed to land in Spain for refueling before flying on to Austria.

It describes the rerouting as a “hostile act” by the US goverment: This is a hostile act by the United States State Department which has used various European governments

8:15 pm EST: Background

President Morales was returning to Bolivia from Russia where he had met with president Vladimir Putin at a summit of major gas exporters in the Kremlin.

Speaking to RT Actualidad, the Spanish-language service of the Russian broadcaster Russia Today, Morales said Bolivia had not received an asylum request from Edward Snowden, but hinted any request would be looked at favourably.

He said: If there were a request, of course we would be willing to debate and consider the idea. I know that the empires have an espionage network and are against the so-called developing countries. And in particular, against those which are rich in natural resources.

8:39 pm EST:  My colleague Helen Davidson has just been on the phone with general aviation staff at Vienna international airport.

Staff confirmed that the plane carrying Morales has landed there, and has not left. They said they were unable to say how many passengers were on board as they were not given a passenger list.

8:54 pm EST: Snowden is not on the plane, AFP reports. AFP are reporting that Austrian foreign ministry officials have confirmed Edward Snowden is not on the plane.

The report continues:”President Morales will leave early Wednesday morning for La Paz,” the Bolivian capital, ministry spokesman Alexander Schallenberg told AFP. Austria did not know why Morales’s plane had landed there, he added.

9:09 pm EST:  AP reports that Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua has condemned the decision by France and Portugal to block the plane from its airspace. He claimed that changing a flight’s route without checking on how much fuel was left in the plane, put Morales’ life at risk.

He added: All the countries that have denied permission for the flight of our brother president, Evo Morales, must be held responsible for his life and his dignity as president.

9:34 pm EST:  AP is reporting that Morales is now spending the night at a Vienna hotel. It also reports Austrian foreign ministry officials have confirmed that Snowden is not on the plane.

To follow more live updates: Go to The Guardian.