Last weekend, Edward Snowden was offered asylum in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia. While Snowden is the most recent high-profile asylum seeker, he is not the first person to very publicly ask another country for refuge. Here are seven other important -- and sometimes infamous -- asylum seekers throughout history.
Sitting Bull (Tatanka Yotanka)
Sitting Bull, a Lakota Chief, led a group of followers to asylum in Canada after defeating General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. It all started when, after their loss at Little Bighorn, the U.S. government sent thousands of soldiers to the Montana territory in pursuit of the Sioux tribes. While some Native Americans surrendered, Sitting Bull and his group headed to the small region known as Grandma's Country, where the British government granted them protection. But after 5 years, the group was starving because the land was barren and in 1981 Sitting Bull returned to the U.S., was arrested and served two years in prison.
The German-American political theorist left Germany in 1929 after being arrested by the Gestapo for her work with the German Zionist Organization. She settled in Geneva and later France. But when the Nazis occupied the country, she left France for the U.S. on an illegal visa issued by American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV.
In 1977, the award-winning director fled his London home for Paris facing charges of having "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor." Polanski originally accepted a plea deal, and served 42 days in prison before learning that his judge was planning on reversing his promise of no more jail time. Polanski then fled to Paris before his final sentencing hearing. There he continued to produce films such as "The Pianist."
Mehran Karimi Nasseri
The man who inspired the movie "The Terminal" starring Tom Hanks, Mehran Karimi Nasseri is an Iranian refugee who lived in Terminal One of the Charles de Gaulle Airport for 16 years from 1988 to 2006. According to reports, Nasseri was expelled from Iran and gained asylum in Belgium, where he lived for 6 years. In 1988, Nasseri tried to relocate as a refuge to the UK. But on the way, Nasseri lost his papers in Paris. They proved his status as an Iranian refugee and so he could neither enter nor leave France. Eventually, the French government granted Nasseri the documents he needed to enter the country, but Nasseri refused to use them and continued to live in the terminal. He left the airport in 2006 after an unspecified ailment and lives in a shelter in the suburbs of Paris.
Similarly, while no one knows where Snowden is residing right now, he was last reported living in the Moscow airport.
The military governor of Panama sought asylum at the Apolistic Nuncio, the de facto embassy of the Vatican, when U.S. forces invaded the country, removed Noriega from his post and placed a $1 billion bounty on his head. Noriega remained at the Apolistic Nuncio for ten days while the U.S. blasted rock music and gunned tank engines outside the building in an act of psychological warfare. After being told that no country in the world would grant him asylum, Noriega surrendered. He is currently residing in a Miami prison.
Last year, the blind Chinese lawyer and activist made a dramatic escape from house arrest, which he had been serving on and off in the Shangong province since 2005. Chen fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing to seek asylum, where he stayed for two days before being moved to a hospital. A tense diplomatic situation ensued between Washington and Beijing, and Chen was granted stay in the U.S. when NYU offered him a staff fellowship, which will come to an end this August.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador last August to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted because of allegations of sexual offenses against two women. Assange did not seek asylum in the U.S. for fear of persecution for releasing classified U.S. government information on Wikileaks. Today, Assange is a proponent of Edward Snowden seeking asylum in Ecuador as well.