Home Security Snowden’s lawyer pushes for unlikely clemency from Trump

Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena has recently expressed his and his client’s desire for clemency to be granted by President Donald Trump.

Snowden, the former NSA and CIA employee, has faced two charges of violating the US Espionage Act and theft of government property since June 2013, when he leaked various classified NSA documents to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The documents included details of the NSA PRISM program, which allows court-approved access to American’s Google and Yahoo! accounts, and also the Xkeyscore program – an analytical tool that collects citizen’s metadata.

Under the US Espionage Act, no individual charged with violating it can use the defence that they were acting in the public interest, meaning that Snowden would have zero chance of facing a fair trial.

Snowden’s charges under the Espionage Act would be unaffected even if his defence proves that the NSA had violated the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution, which protects US citizens' right to privacy.

The US Espionage Act was passed in 1917, shortly after the United State’s entry into World War I, with the intention to prohibit Americans from aiding the enemy during wartime.

Former President Barack Obama refused to pardon Snowden unless he physically submitted to US authorities.

Trump has made very few comments on Snowden. However in March 2016 he called Snowden “a spy” and said that Russia should extradite him to show respect to the US.

Today, Snowden resides in Russia where he has been granted asylum for three years as of 2013, and has been seeking asylum elsewhere since 2016.

Kucherena said that Russian authorities had recently extended Snowden’s residence permit, but noted that it was too early to talk about the possibility of naturalisation.

He said that Russian citizenship could be granted to Snowden no sooner than five years from now.

Kucherena also told reporters that his client was working and also was engaged in charity and social activism.

He noted that Snowden was frequently contacting his friends and fans over the Internet.

In late January, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with the BBC that the decision on Snowden’s extradition could only be taken by either the Federal Migration Service or personally by President Vladimir Putin.

He also noted that the decision required much deliberation as the United States still has the death penalty, which could potentially be applied to Snowden.

Later that year, in October, Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, said Snowden’s extradition to the US would be impossible on legal and moral grounds.

“When Mr. Snowden got stuck at a Russian airport, we did not have any legal or moral reasons to give him to the government of the United States, even for the very simple reason that we do not have an agreement for mutual extradition, because the US refused to have one with us,” he said.

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