US embassy asked activist to 'pass message' to Snowden

The United States embassy in Russia passed on a message to Edward Snowden through one of the rights activists who met with the intelligence leaker, telling him he should be brought to justice, the activist said Friday.

Tanya Lokshina, who is a senior researcher in the office of Human Rights Watch in Moscow, told journalists after meeting with Snowden in the Sheremetyevo airport transit zone that she received the call before the meeting.

"They said: could you pass this along on behalf of the US ambassador (Michael McFaul) that the position of US authorities is... that he is not a rights activist, not a whistleblower... that he violated law and therefore has to be brought to justice," Lokshina said.

She added that she passed on the message to Snowden during his meeting Friday with her and a dozen other Russian rights activists. "He said he understands that this is how the US authorities see the situation. He categorically does not agree with this approach," she said.

That the United States contacted Lokshina in this manner "further proves that the United States government's persecution of Mr. Snowden and therefore that his right to seek and accept asylum should be upheld," said anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks in a statement.

Ambassador McFaul had refrained from making public comments about Snowden's extended layover in Moscow which has seen him marooned for nearly three weeks after the US authorities annulled his passport.

The United States has asked Russia to extradite Snowden despite the lack of a bilateral extradition treaty, which President Vladimir Putin said prevented such a handover.

President Barack Obama last month however said that he is not going to have Snowden's case "suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start wheeling and dealing... so that he can face the justice system."