RUSSIA – NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia and is allowed to enter the country’s territory.
The whistle-blower has been granted temporary political asylum in Russia, Snowden’s legal representative Anatoly Kucherena said.
“I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone,” he added.
Kucherena showed a photocopy of the document to the press. According to it, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until at least July 31, 2014. His asylum status may be extended annually upon request.
With his newly-awarded legal status in Russia, Snowden cannot be handed over to the US authorities, even if Washington files an official request. He can now be transported to the United States only if he agrees to go voluntarily.
Snowden departed at around 15.30 Moscow time (11.30 GMT), airport sources said. His departure came some 30 minutes before his new refugee status was officially announced.
His present location has not been made public nor will it be disclosed, Kucherena said.
“He is the most wanted person on earth and his security will be a priority,” the attorney explained. “He will deal with personal security issues and lodging himself. I will just consult him as his lawyer.”
Snowden eventually intends to talk to the press in Russia, but needs at least one day of privacy, Kucherena said.
The whistleblower was unaccompanied when he left the airport in a regular taxi, Kucherena added.
However, WikiLeaks contradicted the lawyer, saying the organization’s activist Sarah Harrison accompanied Snowden.
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