Iceland businessman says plane ready for Snowden
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — An Icelandic business executive said Friday that a private plane is on standby to transport National Security Agency secrets leaker Edward Snowden from Hong Kong to Iceland.
Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson said he has not spoken directly with Snowden but has been in touch with a third party representing him.
The businessman, who has connections to the WikiLeaks secret-spilling organization, said he has access to planes in Hong Kong and mainland China that Snowden could use.
But Iceland’s government says it has not received an asylum request from Snowden, who has revealed his role in providing secret NSA documents about widespread surveillance programs.
Iceland Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Tomasson said Snowden hasn’t approached the ministry and could initiate an asylum request if he was already in Iceland.
When asked about the reports of Sigurvinsson chartering a private plane to fly Snowden to Iceland, Tomasson said: “We don’t object to that. But we don’t have any knowledge other than what has been in the news. We can’t comment any further on that.”
U.S. officials have expressed an interest in prosecuting Snowden for his admitted role in the publication of the documents. Snowden fled to Hong Kong and is hiding.
Sigurvinsson said that Snowden’s potential private flight is being funded by private donations.
“There are a number of people that are interested in freedom of speech and recognize the importance of knowing who is spying on us,” he said. “We are people that care about privacy.”
Money is being raised on Snowden’s behalf by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee based in the United States, but it was not expected to be tapped to help with the cost of a possible flight to Iceland.
Spokesman Matt Wall said Friday that more than $20,800 had been raised so far to pay for possible legal fees but that this would not be put to use for Snowden’s personal expenses.
Sigurvinsson is a former director of DataCell, a data hosting service provider that, as one of its services, processed donations for WikiLeaks. He previously worked for investment and technology companies, including Baugur Group, MerkurPoint and iCell.
He said his group hopes to obtain Icelandic citizenship for Snowden.
“We are hoping that the government does what they did with Bobby Fischer,” he said, referring to the late chess master who went to Iceland to escape U.S. prosecution for breaking sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia. “We will see what happens.”