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Snowden’s lawyer to RT: ‘He fears torture, execution; never witnessed such persecution by the US’

Published time: July 17, 2013 01:56
Edited time: July 17, 2013 09:10
Anatoly Kucherena (AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Anatoly Kucherena (AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Following the official asylum petition by Edward Snowden to the Russian authorities, RT interviewed Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena who consults Snowden. He has explained to RT the intricacies of the Russian asylum process.

Kucherena elaborated on the personal motivation of Edward Snowden’s petition and highlighted the legality of such a request. He stressed that the Russian decision to review the asylum request was based on the “human rights” aspect of the issue.

RT: Can you walk us through the steps of obtaining asylum in Russia for Mr Snowden.

Anatoly Kucherena: Yesterday Mr Edward Snowden invited me for a meeting, so I can explain to him the Russian laws. We spent a lot of time in discussion yesterday where he asked questions and I explained everything to him regarding Russia’s refugee laws, in regards to receiving political asylum, and in regards to receiving a temporary asylum.  In terms of his legal status, receiving political asylum or temporary asylum would not change status. In terms of receiving political asylum status, the procedure is quite long - 6 months. Receiving a temporary asylum will only take up to 3 months. He chose this option.

It is understandable that he is morally tired, being kept in the transit zone of Sheremetevo airport. I understand that being kept there is difficult. That is why he made this decision. If the Federal Migration Service (FMS) rules in favor of his asylum request, that was handed over in my presence and officially accepted and registered by FMS, then he will receive asylum status for one year.  This status he could renew further for a year and then another year, as he sees fit. But in this case, we’re talking about his will, because in this situation, he had to fill out the application. I was there just to consult on the legal matters in this field.

RT: Do I understand it correctly, that until a decision on the petition is made he cannot leave the confinement of Sheremetevo airport?

AK: He could leave the neutral zone of Sheremetevo airport only when he receives proper paperwork, meaning that he does not have to wait for a final decision on his petition. He will be given appropriate paperwork. Afterwards, if FMS rules in favor of his petition, he will be issued a refugee ID allowing him to remain in the Russian Federation for a year with full rights and privileges of a Russian citizen.

RT: Once Mr. Snowden is allowed to leave the airport, will he get accommodation or will he need to resolve this on his own? Edward Snowden (Tanya Lokshina / Human Rights Watc)

AK: He will most likely be handling this on his own, but we agreed that he would consult with me. He asked me to be his lawyer, so I would not leave him. I would of course help him. In terms of his future fate, it is difficult to say in regards to his settling in and accommodation. Those are the questions he will need to resolve, once a decision on his legal status in Russia is made.

RT: You have stated today that Mr Snowden has promised to stop damaging the US’s reputation. Does that mean that he will halt his whistleblowing activities?

AK: We had also discussed this issue and he has assured me that President Putin’s request to stop his activity against the US is “attainable.” And it is an important question, because I believe that Mr Putin first of all understands that there’re state interests and there’re human rights. If all of this is weighed and measured, then of course human rights take the upper hand. They have to be more important.  

And Russia’s humane approach in resolving this issue, without a doubt bears witness to the fact that no matter who or which country the individual comes from, in times of such difficult personal troubles, we have to act humanely toward that individual. Therefore, Mr Putin’s request in respect to the US and the overall Russian attitude signifies that we all have a good attitude towards the United States.

Of course there’re politicians that want to use certain issues for their personal advantage, but overall it is this request by Mr Putin that testifies that our good relations cannot be ruined by some nuances in domestic or foreign policy approaches.

I consider this question of vital importance and we need to understand it correctly, that today this issue had to be resolved. The issue was not being resolved only because Edward did not know how to act. Nobody could advise him, because being in the presence of airport employees, of course he understood that there had to be an expert, a lawyer who would advise him on how to correctly fill out the forms, which had plenty of questions, such as the place of birth, parent’s name, personal motivation statement.

And there, when asked a question by the FMS agent why he chose to file a petition in Russia and why he came here, he replied that he fears for his life and wellbeing, that he is also afraid of torture, and that he could get executed. And what he says sounds quite convincing, because the US still administers capital punishment and torture.

Therefore, I believe that under such circumstances and his written petition, it is necessary for him to be granted temporary asylum. I think it will be a humane step, and since Russia is acting humanly the US government cannot view it as a hostile step or hostile behavior toward the US. Because they have to understand that an individual faced with harsh life circumstances also needs refuge and protection from the state where it happens to be.

AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov


RT: Are the guarantees issued by Snowden temporary? Could he resume his activities after asylum is granted?

AK: You know, after talking to him for a while during our three meetings, I believe that he will be true to his word. Obviously, based on his moral stance he is a human rights activist, because yesterday and today we covered a number of questions that arise from everyday life both in Russia and US and in Europe. From his replies, I can understand that he is an adamant human rights activist and when he says that his past employment duties blatantly violated universal human rights, he says it sincerely. Because he, unlike someone else, understands that he used certain methods to spy on people, to read their communication.

To tell you the truth, the first time we met, when he met the human rights activists, he started his speech with “dear ladies and gentlemen, in front of you, you see an individual who until recently listened to your phone conversation and read your communications.” Therefore, I personally think that he is an ideologically driven person that thinks that it is unacceptable to violate universal human rights on such a large scale.

RT: Why do you think Mr Snowden has not yet decided whether or not he will travel to Latin America?

A demonstrator dressed up as a surveillance camera attenda a demonstration in support of U.S intelligence contractor Edward Snowden who leaked the US National Security Agenca (NSA) surveillance program, under the motto 'Stop Prism now!' in front of the US consulate in Hamburg, Germany (AFP Photo / DPA / Angelika Warmuth / Germany out)

AK: I think now, his moral and psychological state requires him to understand how his fate will play out in the time to come. Because he, answering FMS’s questions, replied that he has never witnessed such persecution conducted by the US government in regards to other people.  

This is disproportionate pressure. These are disproportionate requirements on behalf of the US government for us, Russia in regards to his deportation. There is no law in place that would require Russia to extradite him. I’ve addressed this question to our American colleagues asking them to name a legislative norm that would allow you to extradite Edward. There is no such law. There is no such clause in international law or our national law.

RT: Did you volunteer to help Edward Snowden?

AK: I volunteered for this but he took the initiative, he invited me and of course as a professional lawyer I could not leave a person in need and because I understood that to solve this stalemate, one needs to understand jurisprudence. I had to explain, first of all to him, the way our laws work, what it means to be granted this legal status, his rights, etc.  The only reason he has been stuck there for so long is because he could not understand the process behind it. Authorities have no communication with him. He only talks to airport staff.

RT: Do you think Mr Snowden could stay in Russia?

I’m not eliminating this possibility because he told me that he would like to stay in Russia. He will become a citizen with all rights and privileges.

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