Belarusian dissident in Ecuador: ‘I know how Snowden feels’

Belarusian political dissident Aliaksandr Barankou says his own quest for political asylum in Ecuador mirrors U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden.

‘I know how Mr. Snowden feels, I was in the same situation, when you don’t know what is going to happen and if your life continues to be in danger. I don’t face the death penalty or a life sentence in jail. I don’t know what charges they [Belarusian authorities] could still have. But they [Snowden and Assange] are refugees and I know how they are feeling at this moment and really it is difficult.’

31-year-old Aliaksandr Barankou was once a policeman in Belarus. The former investigator fled his native country after the Belarusian KGB had opened two criminal cases against him. According to Barankou, it was an act of retaliation for his eliciting numerous facts of corruption and misfeasance in law enforcement bodies and business entities. It was the materials and information obtained by Barankou that afforded ground for initiating a number of high-profile cases in Belarus, the asylum seeker says. After his leaving for Ecuador the authorities put Barankou in INTERPOL wanted list.

“I saw on the internet the Ecuador protects human rights, I saw statistics on the number of refugees in the country. The other thing is that I didn’t need a visa in other countries and Belarusians need a visa all over the world. I think that you don’t need a visa for seven or eight countries and Ecuador is the best country out of all the ones I saw where I could go,” he said.

However, Barankou’s path to asylum in Ecuador was no smooth affair. After entering the South American country, officials detained the dissident for over 80 days pending an extradition request from Belarus for their fugitive.

Ecuador, where Edward Snowden has requested asylum, said a decision on the controversial case could take months and asked Washington to argue its case for extradition. Russia said Snowden, whose flight is proving a growing embarrassment for President Barack Obama, was still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.

The South American country has previously granted asylum status to infamous WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is hiding at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.

Snowden, who worked as a systems administrator at a U.S. National Security Agency facility in Hawaii, was the source of disclosures about U.S. government surveillance that included details about a program that collected emails, chat logs and other types of data from companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.The U.S. fugitive has divided opinion in the United States, where many have been outraged by the extent of government snooping.

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