By KIRIT RADIA, MOSCOW (ABC) : The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden said the FBI had offered to fly him to Moscow to try and meet with his son, but he declined because he had no guarantee he would see him.
“I said, ‘I want to be able to speak with my son…. Can you set up communications?’ And it was, ‘Well, we’re not sure,’?” Lon Snowden told The Washington Post. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.'”
Lon Snowden said in a lengthy interview with Russian television that he still hoped to travel to Russia. His lawyer, Bruce Fein, said in the same interview that they had been in touch with Russian authorities about traveling there.
Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who is advising Edward Snowden in his bid for asylum in Russia, said a separate interview with a Russian radio station that he is trying to arrange for Lon Snowden to travel to Russia. He said that Edward Snowden would appreciate the chance to see his father.
“We have not reached an agreement on the time of his arrival. However, his father’s arrival is very important to Edward Snowden and he has asked for his father to be contacted because he is in a difficult situation. He needs moral support,” Kucherena said.
It has now been over two weeks since Snowden applied for asylum in Russia. A preliminary decision is usually made within a week, and a final decision within three months. If the preliminary decision is positive, Snowden would be granted a permit to finally leave the international zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and enter Russia. He has been stuck there since June 23 because he does not have a visa to enter the country and because the United States canceled his passport, preventing him from traveling to potential safe havens in Latin America.
Kucherena, who has repeatedly said he expects a decision soon, conceded that this case is taking longer because of its special circumstances. He said that if Snowden is denied asylum, they will file a lawsuit.
“We will go to court if Snowden is denied asylum,” he said, according to Interfax.
Kucherena did not return calls for comment.
Lon Snowden thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and the people of Russia for their “strength and courage and resolve” in considering Edward’s asylum bid.
Putin has said that Snowden can stay in Russia, but only if he stops “harming” the United States by leaking more classified information. Edward Snowden, in a meeting with human rights groups earlier this month, argued he meets that condition because he has already given away all of the information he has.
The case comes at an awkward time for the Kremlin, just weeks before President Obama is scheduled to sit down for a summit with Putin in Moscow. U.S. officials have warned that if Snowden is allowed to remain in Russia, Obama may pull out of the meeting. It is perhaps one reason Russia has not yet decided whether to provide Snowden with asylum.
In a letter to Russian authorities last week, Attorney General Eric Holder again requested that Russia turn Snowden over, stressing that he would not be tortured or face the death penalty if returned to the United States.
On Tuesday, Russia’s Justice Ministry responded, indicated it was not swayed. According to Interfax, the ministry said its position had not changed and it has no plans to send Snowden back to the United States. The ministry also noted that it has no legal basis for taking action against Snowden because he remains on the international side of the airport, before passport control, and has technically not crossed into Russia.
In his interview with Russian television, Lon Snowden said he does not believe his son would receive a fair trial in the United States.
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“I don’t really have a high level of trust for our justice system,” he told Rossiya24, drawing a comparison to the trial of fellow leaker Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who on Tuesday was found guilty of most counts against him in a military court for turning over a massive trove of military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.
“He was subjected to inhumane conditions. He was stripped of his clothes, kept for 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, his glasses were removed. That was unacceptable,” Lon Snowden said.
The elder Snowden also offered a direct message to his son.
“I hope to see you soon. But most of all I want you to be safe,” he said.
“We love you,” Lon Snowden added. “I want you to find safe haven.”
He said he was “proud” of his son for leaking information about some of America’s most sensitive spying programs, calling him “a principled young man.”
“I see a need for change. What my son has revealed is of great concern to me and to many others,” Lon Snowden said.
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