Moscow – Edward Snowden’s father said he was grateful to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for their “courage” and “strength” in protecting his son, who is wanted for leaking top-secret U.S. security agency files.
In an interview broadcast Wednesday in Russia with the Rossiya-24 television news network, Lon Snowden said his son is unlikely to get a fair trial in the United States, so Russia remains the safest place for him at the moment.
“The fact is, no assurances have been made that he will be given a fair trial” in the United States, the elder Snowden said at the station’s studios in Washington, where he was accompanied by a lawyer. “I feel Russia has the strength and resolve and convictions to protect my son.”
Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, has been at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, and is wanted in the United States for leaking sensitive data about U.S. government surveillance of Internet and phone communications. He watched from the airport as his father’s interview was broadcast, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said, speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity.
Snowden has applied for temporary refugee status in Russia, and for more than a week has been waiting for the Federal Migration Service to either approve his application or issue him a certificate allowing him to leave the airport while the application is being reviewed.
“I begin every day with a call to the migration authorities,” Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Wednesday. “So far to no avail, which I attribute to bureaucratic hurdles surrounding this unique case.”
Kucherena said he had spoken earlier Wednesday to Snowden’s father, who wants to come to Russia as soon as possible “to cheer up his son.”
“Initially it was the FBI that wanted him to go to Russia and talk his son into returning to the United States,” Kucherena said. “But it is not the case now as his father is confident that his son can be safe only in Russia these days.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Lon Snowden said the FBI had spoken to him about trying to get his son to return. He said the effort collapsed when the bureau could not guarantee that the two would actually be able to see each other.
Kucherena said that he is preparing an official invitation to Snowden’s father and his lawyer to come to Russia.
“I will finish the paperwork and most likely send them an invitation Friday at the earliest,” Kucherena said. “They are ready to come here anytime.”
The elder Snowden’s lawyer, Bruce Fein, said Edward Snowden was the victim of “a witch hunt.”
In his interview with Russian TV, Lon Snowden spoke of concern that his son could face treatment similar to that of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was convicted Tuesday of violating the Espionage Act but acquitted of more serious charges of aiding the enemy.
Manning “was stripped of his clothes, kept for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, his glasses were removed,” the elder Snowden said. “That was unacceptable. I just don’t have a high level of trust in our justice system, not only because of what has happened to my son.”
Addressing his son, the elder Snowden said, “I hope to see you soon. But most of all I want you to be safe. I hope you are watching this…. Your family is well. We love you.”