Bolivian president’s plane diverted amid rumors over Snowden

The plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to land in Austria Tuesday and delayed for 12 hours after reports swirled that Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking information about top-secret National Security Agency surveillance programs, was onboard.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Portuguese and French authorities would not allow the plane to enter their airspace because of the rumors, according to CNN and The Associated Press.

"We are told that there were some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane," Choquehuanca said. "We do not know who has invented this lie. Someone who wants to harm our country. This information that has been circulated is malicious information to harm this country."

ADVERTISEMENT
The plane had been leaving from Moscow, where Snowden is reportedly camped out at the airport after fleeing Hong Kong last month. The United States has revoked his travel documents, leaving the 30-year-old former Defense contractor in a legal no-man's land. He has requested asylum in some 20 countries, but most have said that he needs to be on their soil for such a request to be considered.

Earlier this weekend, Morales said he would consider an asylum request from Snowden.

Morales's flight eventually departed Wednesday afternoon.

Austria's Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said that the dispute was resolved after Morales agreed to an inspection of the plane.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story about Snowden's leaks on secret NSA programs, however, tweeted that Bolivia did not give permission for a search, but that airport police were "allowed to walk through" the plane.

Choquehuanca said Bolivian authorities are investigating how the rumors about Snowden originated.

"Portugal owes us an explanation. France owes us an explanation. ... The president's life was put at risk," Choquehuanca said.

"We don't know who invented this lie, but we want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of President Evo Morales."

This story was published at 6:36 p.m. on July 2 and has been updated.