By Elizabeth Piper
The father of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden said he would not fly to Russia to serve as an “emotional tool” in the United States’ efforts to persuade his son to surrender.
Lonnie Snowden told the Washington Post that FBI officials had not been able to guarantee if he would be allowed to see his son, who faces espionage charges in the United States for exposing secret U.S. surveillance programmes.
“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,’” Lonnie Snowden told the Post. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.'”
The elder Snowden earlier told state-owned Russian 24 television the FBI had suggested a “few weeks ago” that he should travel to Moscow to talk to his son.
Edward Snowden, whose exposure of the surveillance raised questions about intrusion into private lives, has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong more than a month ago.
His father has had no direct contact with him.
Snowden, 30, has applied for temporary asylum in Russia after the cancellation of his travel documents meant he was unable to travel on to a preferred destination in Latin America.
His father said he believed Snowden was better off in Moscow.
“If he wants to spend the rest of his life in Russia, I would agree. I am not against it,” he told Russian television. “If I were in his place, I would stay in Russia, and I hope that Russia will accept him.”
Lonnie Snowden again said he did not think his son would get a fair trial in the United States because of “what happened in the last five or six weeks.”
“I hope that he will return home and appear in court … But I don’t expect that … a court would be fair. We cannot guarantee a fair court.”
The Russian lawyer helping Edward Snowden, Anatoly Kucherena, told the program he thought his asylum request would be granted “in the coming days”, and that the United States had failed to send an official extradition request.
“If you want (to have Snowden handed over), you should adhere to the law, so send, according to existing rules of cooperation between states, a corresponding legal document, correctly filled out. But there is no such thing,” said Kucherena, a lawyer who is close to the Kremlin.
“Just saying ‘hand him over’ is absolutely dishonorable and incorrect.”