Russian immigration authorities have given accused NSA leaker Edward Snowden permission to move freely within the country, but "Russia will not hand him over" to the United States, his attorney said on Saturday.
"The embassy called me," the lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Germany's Der Spiegel Online in an interview. He was referring to the American Embassy in Moscow. "They want to have a meeting.
"But what surprises me is that the U.S. still hasn't made an appeal for extradition. I repeat: America has not filed a request for extradition," Kucherena said. "And America also hasn't said that Snowden's claims are false. Snowden has opened the world's eyes."
Snowden, 30, is charged with espionage for leaking details about National Security Agency programs that collected information on millions of Americans’ telephone calls and Internet activities.
He has officially filed a request for temporary asylum in Russia, after pledging to honor Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands that he stop leaking information that could damage the United States.
Russian immigration authorities completed their first review of Snowden's request this week, granting him the documents needed to move freely within the country, Der Spiegel reports.
A final decision on Snowden's asylum request is expected to be made within the coming months, Kucherena said.
Snowden has been holed up for weeks in a restricted area of Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that Snowden would not face the death penalty or torture if Russia sent him home to face the charges from disclosing government secrets.
In his interview, Kucherena told Der Spiegel that Snowden had received many offers for accommodations in Russia but that he remained "very concerned about his own safety."
"Not a single day passes without Washington threatening yet another country with sanctions if it provides Snowden with assistance," he said. "And hardly a day passes without some kind of statement from the State Department.
"Of course, that troubles him. In the event of an extradition to the U.S., he fears torture or the death penalty. That's why he is seeking asylum in Russia."
Kucherena helped facilitate Snowden's asylum application to Russian authorities.
"The application has to be personally delivered. So far, Edward had not been able to leave the transit zone," he told Der Spiegel. "He hand-wrote a declaration of intent. We handed it over to Russia's immigration authority. I made a telephone call to the immigration authority, and then a representative of the authority came to the airport.
"An asylum application may not be sent by mail. An official has to receive it," he added. "He looked to make sure that Edward signed every page of the application personally."
Russia can only help Snowden, Kucherena said, because he acted out of conviction.
"Snowden is acting out of conviction. What kind of lawyer wouldn't want to take his case? It's important to me to defend him.
"His goal is to open the eyes of the Americans, the Europeans and the world," he added. "They should know that their correspondence is being monitored."
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