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Moscow airport: Snowden to meet with human rights groups

Moscow airport: Snowden to meet with human rights groups
Friday, July 12, 2013 - 8:58am

A letter purportedly from Edward Snowden blasts the U.S. for "threatening behavior"

 American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has blasted the United States for "threatening behavior" and carrying out an unlawful campaign against him, as he prepares to meet Friday with human rights groups at a Russian airport.

The former National Security Agency contractor is believed to have been holed up in a transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport since leaving Hong Kong for Russia on June 23.

It is not yet clear which human rights organizations will be involved in the meeting with Snowden, scheduled to start at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).

The airport's press service confirmed that the meeting was expected. If Snowden does indeed show up, it will be the first public sighting of him since he apparently reached Russia.

Snowden's comments were made in an invitation purportedly e-mailed by him to human rights groups and other "respected individuals," and posted on the Facebook page of a Russian Human Rights Watch staffer, Tanya Lokshina.

In the letter, the writer praises the "brave countries" that have offered him support, in the face of what he describes as "an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum."

He also accuses the United States of "threatening behavior" on an unprecedented scale, citing the temporary grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales' plane last week. The jet, which had left Moscow, was forced to land in Austria after other European countries allegedly closed their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was aboard.

"Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President's plane to effect a search for a political refugee," the letter says.

The writer invites those addressed to join him at Sheremetyevo airport "for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation."

They are instructed to gather in the arrival hall at Terminal F, where an airport staff member will meet them holding a sign labeled "G9." They should bring the invitation and identification documents "as security will likely be tight at this meeting," the letter says.

In her Facebook post, Lokshina says she received the e-mailed invitation close to 5 p.m. Thursday and acknowledges that she does not know if it is real.

CNN has not been able to verify if the letter is genuine.

Representatives of human rights groups have begun arriving at the airport, where a group of Russian and international journalists have gathered in anticipation of the meeting.

Some told reporters they were there because they are curious to speak to Snowden and hear what he has to say.

Latin American asylum offers

Since his arrival in Moscow, Snowden -- who faces espionage charges in the United States -- has requested asylum in dozens of countries, sparking a surge in speculation about his next steps.

The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have said their countries would give him asylum, and Nicaragua's president said he would offer it "if circumstances permit."

Snowden has admitted releasing classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs to the media and argues that he did so to expose serious violations of the U.S. Constitution.

He is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

He has received support from WikiLeaks, which has been aiding him in his bids for asylum.

The group, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website, said in a Twitter post Wednesday that Snowden's "flight of liberty" campaign was starting, promising further details.

But details about where Snowden is going -- and how he'll get there -- have remained hard to come by.

U.S. officials told Chinese officials in Washington this week that they're disappointed with the way China and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, saying their actions undermined trust. China said that Hong Kong authorities acted in accordance with the law.

CNN's Alla Eshchenko reported from Moscow and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN's Phil Black and Marilia Brocchetto contributed to this report.

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