WASHINGTON, July 16 (RIA Novosti) – The White House on Tuesday dismissed allegations that former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is being persecuted by the US government and again called on Moscow to reject his request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.
“When we see suppositions or discussions about the idea that Mr. Snowden is somehow being persecuted -- he is a US citizen who has been charged with crimes and, under our system of law, he should be afforded every bit of due process here in the United States, and he should return here to face trial,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news briefing on Tuesday.
Prominent Russian lawyer and Public Chamber member Anatoly Kucherena said earlier Tuesday that Snowden had submitted a formal, written request for asylum in Russia, in which he said he felt “he is being persecuted by the US government… and therefore he fears for his life, for his safety.”
“He is scared that he will be tortured or executed,” Kucherena told the Rossiya-24 news television channel after helping Snowden with his asylum request.
The United States and Russia have been at loggerheads about what to do about Snowden since he arrived at Moscow’s main international airport on June 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that the former National Security Agency contractor had “arrived on our territory without an invitation” and the United States had “blocked him” there by intimidating other countries that might have offered him asylum.
Putin also said that Russia would not give Snowden permanent asylum because he refused to stop a “fight for human rights” that may strain Moscow’s ties with Washington.
Carney expressed concern Tuesday that Snowden’s case could cause “long-term problems in US-Russia relations.
“Those relations are very important and they see the countries engaging on a number of important issues, both economic and security-related. We want to continue that relationship unimpeded by this issue,” he said.
If Russia grants Snowden asylum he would be given refugee status for a year, which would allow him to get a job and move around freely, Kucherena said.
He would also be able to work on longer term plans to secure passage to any one of the Latin American countries that have offered him asylum, Kucherena said.
Carney stressed that the only travel the United States thinks Snowden should be allowed to do is back to the United States to face trial.
“Mr. Snowden ought to be expelled and returned to the United States and should not be allowed to travel, except as necessary to return to the United States,” Carney said.
“He is not a human rights activist, he is not a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information. He has been charged with three felony counts related to leaking classified information, and for those reasons, he should be returned to the United States,” he said.