10:43 GMT27 February 2021
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    The name of US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden is being used as a "bargaining chip" in the US presidential race, but the candidates should not forget about his basic rights and freedoms, Snowden's lawyer said on Friday.

    A chair is pictured on stage as former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is awarded the Bjornson prize Molde, Norway, in this September 5, 2015 file photo
    © REUTERS / Svein Ove Ekornesvaag/NTB Scanpix/Files
    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, US Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Russia should send Snowden back to the United States. Another Republican candidate, Ted Cruz, said that there was new "convincing" evidence that Snowden had committed treason.

    "It is clear that today they are trying to make Snowden a bargaining chip, particularly in the pre-election campaign, and we now and then hear certain statements. But still, the presidential candidates should understand that if they come up with populist statements against Edward Snowden, then, of course, becoming the US president will be very difficult," Anatoly Kucherena told RIA Novosti.

    One-sided statements about Snowden are very likely aimed at misleading regular US citizens about Snowden's story, his actual contribution and his rights, the lawyers said.

    In summer 2013, Snowden leaked over 1.5 million secret documents revealing mass surveillance practices pursued by the NSA in the United States and abroad. The revelations sparked both domestic and international controversy.

    Snowden is wanted in his homeland on charges of espionage and theft of government property. He fled to Asia before eventually being granted temporary asylum in Russia for one-year, and later a three-year residency permit. The whistleblower faces up to 30 years in prison in the United States if convicted.


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