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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Updates on Snowden\'s Meeting With Rights Groups in Moscow

Last Updated, Saturday, 1:08 p.m. As my colleague Ellen Barry reports on Twitter from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Human Rights Watch released the first image of Edward Snowden in Russia, taken at a meeting with rights groups on Friday.

The image was sent to reporters by Tanya Lokshina, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Russia who was invited to the meeting. The woman seated to Mr. Snowden's right was Sarah Harrison, a British WikiLeaks activist; at his left was a translator. After the meeting ended, WikiLeaks released a full transcript of Mr. Snowden's statement to the group and a brief video clip of the meeting was published on a Russian news site.

In the video, obtained by Life News, Mr. Snowden read the beginning of his statement, saying: “A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone's communications at any time. That is the power to change people's fates. It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance.”

After a pause for translation, he continued, “While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings -” at which point he was interrupted by an airport announcement, provoking laughter from the room. He commented wryly, “I've heard that many times in the last couple of weeks.”

More video of his statement, apparently shot from the same angle, was broadcast on Russian television later.

Video of Edward Snowden reading a statement to rights advocates at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday.

Ms. Lokshina also revealed that Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, said that he has decided to apply for political asylum in Russia. When asked about Mr. Snowden earlier this month, President Vladimir V. Putin told reporters, “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must cease his work aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, as strange as it may sound from my lips.” (More information on the meeting, which was still in progress when this post was first published, will be added in updates below as it reaches us via @EllenBarryNYT and other reporters.)

Earlier on Friday, Ms. Lokshina had posted the complete text of the mysterious invitation she received to the meeting at the airport on her Facebook page.

As the meeting started, her colleague Hugh Williamson pointed to a Human Rights Watch statement calling for his request for asylum to be evaluated fairly.

According to the Russian news agency Interfax, Mr. Putin's press secretary, Dmitri S. Peskov, stressed that the conditions outlined by the president still apply.

After the meeting ended, participants were besieged by a large number of journalists at the airport, the journalist Olaf Koens reported on Twitter.

Shaun Walker, the Moscow correspondent for London's Independent, noted that Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Russian Parliament, was among those invited to meet Mr. Snowden.