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31 Jul, 2013 09:18

My son won’t get fair trial in US – Snowden’s father

My son won’t get fair trial in US – Snowden’s father

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden would be better off staying in Russia, because he won’t get a fair trial in the US, believes his father Lon Snowden. He may soon travel to Moscow to meet his son.

Lon Snowden backs Edward’s decision to seek political asylum in Russia, he told Rossiya 24 news channel on Wednesday. The live interview taken in the US was most likely viewed by the NSA whistleblower from his temporary refuge at a Moscow airport transit zone, as he was warned beforehand by his legal representative in Russia Anatoly Kucherena.

If Edward returned to the US for prosecution, he would not be granted the constitutional right of due process, the elder Snowden fears.

“The fact is no assurances have been made that he will be given a fair trial, that he deserves, or any citizen of this nation is given by our Constitution,” he said.

Edward Snowden’s case has taken on all the characteristics of a witch hunt, argues Lon Snowden’s attorney, Bruce Fein, who was interviewed by the channel along with his client. A number of Obama administration officials and lawmakers openly branded the former NSA contractor a traitor although he has yet to be tried on espionage charges. 

There is also concern that should a trial be conducted, Snowden’s defense team would find it difficult to call witnesses and present evidence due to the secrecy surrounding the NSA’s surveillance programs.

In the run up to the trial, Lon Snowden fears his son would be maltreated in US custody, citing the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was recently found guilty on 20 offences linked to the leaking of classified US information to WikiLeaks. 

US National Security Agency (NSA) fugitive leaker Edward Snowden (C) during a meeting with rights activists, with among them Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks (L), at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, on July 12, 2013.(AFP Photo / Tanya Lokshina)

"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,” the elder Snowden said. “I just don’t have a high level of trust in our justice system, not only because of what has happened to my son.”

When asked whether it would be better for Edward Snowden to seek asylum in one of the countries that have already voiced their readiness to provide shelter like Venezuela, Lon Snowden said he thought Russia would be better for his son and would himself seek refuge there if he were in a similar position.

“I would certainly have appreciated the offers by Venezuela and Ecuador and Bolivia,” he said. “But considering actions that were taken, particularly the grounding of Evo Morales’ aircraft, where my son was thought to be, I feel Russia has the strength and resolve and convictions to protect my son.” 

He said he hopes he will be able to soon visit Russia and reunite with his son. The FBI tried to organize such a meeting, but the effort was stalled after Lon Snowden found the agency would not guarantee that their conversation could be conducted in private. 

“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,’ ” Snowden’s father told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.’ ”

Now Kucherena is working on bringing over Lon Snowden and arranging for him to meet his son. 

“We haven’t set a time for such e visit yet, but we will do it very soon. I hope that I will be able to deliver an invitation as soon as today,” he told Vesti FM radio station on Wednesday. “Edward needs moral support.”

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of former U.S. spy agency NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the word "HERO" during Fourth of July Independence Day celebrations in Boston, Massachusetts July 4, 2013.(Reuters / Brian Snyder)