Latin America & Caribbean

Edward Snowden case: Bolivia summons envoys over jet

Evo Morales speaks during a meeting with Uru-Chipaya indigenous in Chipaya, Bolivia, Saturday, 6 July
Image caption Evo Morales and his allies were furious over the jet incident

Bolivia has summoned the ambassadors of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to explain why their countries blocked President Evo Morales' jet last week.

Mr Morales was flying home from Moscow when his plane was forced to reroute to Vienna, amid rumours that US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.

Mr Snowden, a former CIA contractor, is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets about US surveillance schemes.

The European countries have variously denied closing their airspace.

Mr Snowden was not on the flight, and is still believed to be in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

But Spanish officials admitted that they had been told Mr Snowden was on board the plane.

Several Latin American countries have condemned the incident and accused the US of influencing its European allies.

"We are simply asking the government of Spain and the other governments to clarify and explain where that version of Mr Snowden being on the presidential plane came from," said Bolivian Communications Minister Amanda Davila.

"Who spread that fallacy, that lie?"

Meanwhile, the diplomatic row spilled onto the streets of La Paz, as thousands of Bolivians staged demonstrations against the US and four European countries.

Hundreds of protesters reportedly gathered outside the US embassy, demanding that the US diplomatic mission be closed and setting fire to US, Spanish, French and Portuguese flags.

'Grave crimes'

The US wants Mr Snowden extradited on charges of leaking secrets he gathered while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), America's electronic spying agency.

Ireland's High Court on Monday rejected a bid by the US to obtain a provisional arrest warrant for Mr Snowden in the event he landed on Irish soil.

Judge Colm Mac Eochaidh said he was "compelled" to refuse the request because it did not specify where the alleged offences were committed. However, he said this should not prevent the US authorities from making a fresh application.

Mr Snowden, 30, has requested asylum in more than 20 countries.

Several Latin American nations have indicated they would give him protection if asked.

Nicaragua confirmed on Monday that it had received a formal asylum request, and indicated last week that it would give him protection.

Correspondents say the furore surrounding Mr Morales' plane has made Latin America a likely destination for Mr Snowden.

But he faces major difficulties in arranging passage from Moscow if Western European nations will not allow him to fly over their territory.

Mr Snowden's leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.

The Guardian and Washington Post interviewed him at length last month in Hong Kong, where he fled after revealing details about Prism.

The Guardian published another video segment of that interview on Monday, with Mr Snowden predicting that the US would accuse him of "grave crimes".

Mr Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow on 23 June and has not been seen since.