Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Snowden’s last 72 hours in Hong Kong: dramatic events prompted whistleblower’s flight

New details have emerged about Edward Snowden’s final days in Hong Kong, including the identity of the man who escorted the whistle-blower to Chep Lap Kok airport on Sunday morning to board a Moscow-bound flight.

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Snowden’s last 72 hours in Hong Kong: dramatic events prompted whistleblower’s flight

Lana Lam
24 June 2013

New details have emerged about Edward Snowden’s final days in Hong Kong, including the identity of the man who escorted the whistle-blower to Chep Lap Kok airport on Sunday morning to board a Moscow-bound flight.

As speculation continued to run rife last night over which country will take in the fugitive whistle-blower, Democratic Party lawmaker and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan confirmed that he asked Jonathan Man, an associate at his law firm Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners, to accompany Snowden in case he was arrested at the airport.

Ho said Man had worked closely with Snowden during his time in Hong Kong so he was the ideal choice to be by Snowden’s side if police did detain him.

Ho first met Snowden at a “private home” in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening where he sat down to dinner with the former CIA technician.

Two other lawyers, Robert Tibbo and Jonathan Man, were also at that dinner, where the four spoke about the legal options available to Snowden.

The dinner – a meal including pizza, fried chicken, sausages and Pepsi – lasted two hours and came the night before US officials reportedly asked about the possibility of Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong.

The New York Times reported that the dinner guests were asked to place their mobile phones in the fridge to prevent them from being tracked. The Times also said Snowden expressed concern about failing to receive bail and being forced to spend months or years in a prison cell without access to a computer.

It was during this get-together that Ho was asked by Snowden to seek clarification from the Hong Kong government on its position regarding extradition and ask whether it would “vigorously oppose” a bail application.

Snowden also wanted to know if he would be granted safe passage to leave Hong Kong and if this was what the administration wanted him to do.

The day after the dinner, US Attorney General Eric Holder reportedly called Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung to discuss extradition.

According to a Justice Department official, Holder stressed the importance of the case and urged Hong Kong to honour the request for Snowden’s arrest, Reuters reported.

After Tuesday’s dinner, Ho said he remained in contact with Snowden through “various means” which is understood to include telephone calls and secure online exchanges.

A few days later, Ho he lined up a meeting with a “top government official” to discuss Snowden’s case.

That meeting on Friday June 21 came before court documents detailing US charges of espionage and theft were unsealed, an important development which prompted Snowden’s decisions on Saturday.

At Friday’s meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes, Ho said the official asked if he had written authorisation to act on Snowden’s behalf and Ho replied yes.

However, he did not bring a copy of the authorisation to that confidential meeting and the official did not ask to see it, Ho said.

Also on Friday, Snowden received a message through a “middle-man” claiming to represent the Hong Kong government that he would be able to leave without fear of arrest but he questioned the reliability of that message.

By Saturday morning, Snowden was becoming increasingly anxious and nervous and made plans to leave.

He asked Ho to push his government contact for a green light on his safe passage out of Hong Kong and got ready to board a Saturday night flight.

However, this move was delayed because Ho was unable to get a response from his government contact. But by Sunday morning, Snowden had made up his mind.

Ho made an early morning call on Sunday to Man and asked him to go with Snowden to the airport, so if police did take action, the lawyer could take steps to enforce Snowden’s legal rights.

Stay with SCMP.COM for new revelations soon on Edward Snowden and his work with CIA contractor Booz, Allen, Hamilton