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Canada grants asylum to family who hid Edward Snowden in Hong Kong

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Vanessa Mae Bondalian Rodel (C), hugs her daughter Kellepatha Sanuthi Keana Nihinsa (L) and another asylum seeker Kellapatha Sethumdi Thilanya Kellapathawhile (R) while lawyer Robert Tibbo (back) speaks to reporters in Hong Kong in 2017. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA
Vanessa Mae Bondalian Rodel (C), hugs her daughter Kellepatha Sanuthi Keana Nihinsa (L) and another asylum seeker Kellapatha Sethumdi Thilanya Kellapathawhile (R) while lawyer Robert Tibbo (back) speaks to reporters in Hong Kong in 2017. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The Canadian government has granted asylum and accepted four people from Hong Kong who helped hide American whistleblower Edward Snowden nearly a decade ago after he fled the United States for leaking classified intelligence documents.

The family allowed Snowden, a former defense and National Security Agency contractor, to stay in their Hong Kong apartment when he was a fugitive in 2013.

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The government in Ottawa formally granted asylum to the four -- Supun Thilina Kellapatha, Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and their children Sethumdi and Dinath -- and they arrived in Toronto late Tuesday. They plan to settle in Montreal.

The family from Sri Lanka have been in a period of uncertainty for years. Kellapatha said he was tortured in Sri Lanka for housing Snowden and the family were denied asylum in Hong Kong in 2017.

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"After over a decade in limbo, they can now begin to build new lives in Canada, reunited with the rest of their family and free of the constant fear and worry that marked their existence as high-profile asylum seekers in Hong Kong," Marc-Andre Seguin, president of the aid group For the Refugees, said in a statement.

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Vanessa Rodel and daughter Keane, who is also Kellapatha's daughter, were granted asylum in Canada in 2019. One other refugee, Ajith Pushpakumara, is still in Hong Kong.

Seguin urged the Canadian government to "cut through the red tape" and finish processing Pushpakumara's application.

RELATED Edward Snowden says he will apply for Russian citizenship

Snowden fled the United States in 2013 after leaking numerous classified documents that detailed the NSA's domestic surveillance activities that were enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He initially sought asylum in Hong Kong, but fled to Russia when that failed. He still lives in Russia and is still wanted in the United States for leaking the documents.

Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States, but will do so only if he is guaranteed a fair trial.

RELATED Russia grants Edward Snowden permanent residency, says his lawyer

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