Austria’s president denies searching Morales’s plane for Snowden

Officials did not search President Evo Morales's presidential jet for fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Fischer said – seeking to defuse a diplomatic tussle over the incident.

One airport officer did board the aircraft on Tuesday to find out why it had landed in Vienna reporting technical problems, but "there was no formal inspection", the Austrian president told Kurier newspaper.

Fischer's comments, published on Sunday, appeared aimed at untangling contradictory accounts of how Bolivia's president was treated as he flew home from a conference in Moscow last week.

Bolivia protested after several European countries refused to allow the aircraft to pass through their airspace, amid speculation Morales was taking Snowden to Latin America.

Diplomatic tensions heightened after the plane landed in Vienna and Austrian officials initially said they got official permission to inspect the aircraft for Snowden, who is wanted for leaking details of US surveillance programmes. Bolivia insisted no such inspection took place.


"Someone from the airport staff sought out the aircraft or the pilot after landing to inquire about the nature of the technical problem," Fischer was quoted as saying.

"The Austrian official was advised that the defect was already fixed, and saw on this occasion that the plane was empty … He did not look under the seats. There was no formal inspection, but no other people were found on board," Fischer added.

'There was no search'
Pressed on whether that meant Austrians had not searched the plane, he said:

"There was no search in the forensic sense. There was also no reason to under international law. The plane of a president belongs to 'his territory' and cannot be searched readily."

Snowden is believed to be still holed up in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport and has been trying to find a country that would give him sanctuary since he landed there from Hong Kong on June 23.

Bolivia on Saturday formally offered Snowden asylum, joining leftist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua in defiance of Washington. – Reuters

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Reuters
Guest Author
Advertising

Mask rules are not meant to ‘criminalise’ the public

Shop owners and taxi drivers can now refuse entry to people who defy mandatory mask-wearing regulations

Ramaphosa asks all South Africans to help to avoid 50...

Calling this ‘the gravest crisis in the history of our democracy’, the president said level three lockdown remains, but enforcement will be strengthened

Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday