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Russia keeps fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden in legal limbo

Asylum expired Friday for fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden
Moscow has not responded to request for asylum extension for NSA document leaker Edward Snowden

The Kremlin is keeping Edward Snowden guessing about whether it will renew temporary asylum for the fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor.

Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. prosecutors after he leaked details about NSA surveillance practices, was stranded in the transit lounge at a Moscow airport in June 2013 while trying to flee to Latin America, where several countries had offered him permanent refuge. Russia waited for more than a month before granting him a one-year temporary asylum permit, which expired Friday.

Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer representing Snowden, said this week that his client had asked federal migration authorities several weeks ago to extend his asylum, but had not yet received a reply.

“Edward is still on Russian territory and we have prepared and submitted a package of documents applying for temporary political asylum,” Kucherena told Russian television Thursday. An official decision was expected in the coming days, he added.

Amnesty International took up Snowden’s cause Friday, saying the fugitive should be allowed to travel freely and seek asylum in the country of his choice.

“Edward Snowden is cornered in a legal limbo, without a passport or asylum protection from any government,” Sherif Elsayed-Ali, the deputy director of global thematic issues at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“We call on all governments not to block him from traveling in order to seek protection. By interfering in his ability to do so, they are effectively complicit with the U.S.A. in his unjustified and repressive punishment.”

Snowden has rarely been seen in public over the last year. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper last month, he said he had not chosen to live in Russia and disapproved of most of the Internet censorship and surveillance laws recently adopted by that country.

Political commentators in Moscow said it was unlikely that the Kremlin would deny the extension request, at a time when relations with the U.S. were strained to a breaking point by the Ukraine crisis.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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