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24 Jul, 2013 17:56

Edward Snowden's personal safety is top priority – lawyer to RT

The issue of Snowden's security is the top priority, the lawyer consulting the whistleblower told RT. The former NSA leaker, stuck for longer in a Moscow airport while his asylum is reviewed, now has some Russian books and is learning the language.

Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena talked to RT minutes after he met Snowden. He confirmed that the NSA leaker is not planning to leave Russia after receiving refugee status.

However, Kucherena did not give any specific date when asylum documents should be issued. Asked about reasons for that, he explained that the delay in issuing all necessary papers to Snowden is due to the uniqueness of the situation.

Kucherena says he brought Snowden some fresh clothes and books by Russian writers Dostoevsky and Chekhov. He assures the man is staying in good condition.

RT: All the journalists at the airport were closely watching the developments and everyone was expecting Snowden to step out of the airport today. But obviously he is not going to do so. What seems to be the problem?

Anatoly Kucherena: I have to say that I did not expect to see so many journalists at the airport today, but there is a certain procedure according to which the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) has to consider the request that Snowden filed on the 16th of this month. According to Russian law, there is a government decision that regulates such matters. For example, it says that a request for temporary asylum should be issued in three months. Today we are speaking only about the initial papers. So according to general rules, this is what the FMS does: When they study all the papers that come in, first they issue a temporary document, and then they consider the request. Today there was some misinformation saying that this paper has been issued and Edward can leave the airport. But this paper has not been issued and the papers are still being considered. I talk to migration authorities almost daily as they work on Edward Snowden’s case.

RT: How long will it take for this certificate to be ready, allowing Snowden to leave the airport?

AK: I think this situation will be resolved shortly. At this point, I'm not ready to give you a specific date, because I want to avoid confusion as much as possible. There were so many journalists present here because of the misinformation that we had in the media.

RT: Everyone is curious about the brown bag that you carried to hand over to Snowden. What was inside that bag?

AK: Frankly, I actually did not want journalists to see me with this bag but unfortunately I was unable to do anything as the journalists were all around and they saw me immediately as I came in. There were some books – Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Karamzin, the history of Russia, the history of Moscow, all of those books in English. And I had several short and pants - he has been wearing the same clothes for about a month, so I brought some clothes for him. At this point, he doesn’t have a way to get fresh clothes because he is in a special area inside the airport. So this is what I had in the brown bag.

RT: So there were some items from a survival kit for a successful stay in Russia. When you saw Snowden today, what did he say to you? How did he look? What kind of conversation did you have with him?

AK: I can only reveal part of this conversation to you because I am just transmitting what my client wants to say. So definitely we discussed some current issues, and his current situation. This is the reason he invited me, because I am in contact with the migration authorities and of course he did not have the perfect understanding of current affairs. He asked me what will happen if he is granted asylum and given refugee status – whether he will he be able to travel in Russia and if there will be any restrictions.  I told him that of course there will be no restrictions and he will be free to travel within Russia. If he is granted asylum, his status will allow him to do that. We had a short exchange about why I chose the books specifically for him. And I told him that when I talked to him in the past, this dictated the choice of books. I told him, "You should know who Raskolnikov was." As far as Chekhov is concerned, I told him that he wrote about Russia, about people in Russia, and he was a humorous satirical writer. We‘ve decided that he will read those books first and then we will exchange opinions.

RT: Did Edward Snowden get your sense of humor?

AK: I hope so because he was smiling.

RT: Let’s talk about his mood. The man has been stuck in the airport for almost a month now, not knowing what is going to happen to him next. Did he feel excited that the end of his stay in the airport is near? How did he feel in general?

AK: Well I have to say that he looks not bad. I don't know if he's excited or not, if he’s happy or sad. Probably he is in a situation where he is expecting, waiting. It is very important for him to get a response, to clear the situation as soon as possible. This is what we’ve talked about. I told him that for example if the migration service turns down his request and we get an official refusal, we can appeal this decision in court. So I can say that he is just waiting. Of course he is trying to cheer up, he tries to figure out the situation he is in. He is very thankful to Russia for not abandoning him. [He is thankful] for the fact that Russia has some wonderful people. He had many positive comments about the staff of the airport. He asked me to say hello to all the journalists covering him in an objective way. And for all the people who call and offer help, money, and their homes as a temporary residence. This is basically what I’ve talked to him about. You have to realize that this is his current condition today. He is just waiting and we know that when you wait a long time without a realization of what will happen to you next, whether the response will be positive or negative, this is the best description of his current condition.

RT: You mentioned the journalists, and I have to ask you whether Snowden is prepared to face so much media attention when he leaves the airport. And once he does, what will happen next? Where is he going to go?

AK:  You have to show some understanding. I think we have to understand that the issue of his personal safety is of the upmost priority. Even after he receives the status of a refugee, at this point for him to travel freely without considering his safety properly - I think this would be wrong. The matter of adapting to new conditions and realizing what the situation is, is important for him. We’ve discussed the issue of communication with him - my communication with him - because currently he can only contact me. So I told him “let’s wait when this issue is resolved, we will see. If you have any questions you can call me anytime.”

RT: Here is a question on a lighthearted note. A lot of people are wondering what Snowden has been doing in the airport while he has been stuck there. How does he spend his free time?

AK: Yes you're right. This is a question on a lighter note. He has a lot of free time, but he is an extraordinary kind of person. Several days ago, I gave him a text book in the Russian language and he said a few words to me in Russian, including “Privet” (Hello), “Do Svidanja” (Goodbye), and another word - I can't remember which one. So I think he has very good language skills, at least he promised that next time he will speak Russian to me, to say at least a few words in Russian.