After two months in legal limbo, the whistleblower finally leaves the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow
Former US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden has been granted one year political asylum in Russia. He had been stuck in the transit zone of a Moscow airport since June, after the US revoked his passport.
According to his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden received the necessary documents on Thursday morning, and left the airport to move to an undisclosed location.
The new legal status means he cannot be extradited to the US, even if the White House files an official request. Earlier this week, Snowden’s father Lon said he didn’t believe his son would be guaranteed a fair trial if he returned.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, made headlines across the world when he revealed the existence of several highly intrusive electronic surveillance projects run by the US government and its allies, including PRISM and XKeyscore.
Snowden is free
Snowden leaked the first set of secret documents while staying in Hong Kong in May. On 23 June, he fled to Moscow, fearing that China would eventually cave in to the pressure from the US authorities, and send him to face trial.
The whistleblower’s next stop was believed to be Cuba, until the Americans revoked his passport, putting him in a situation where he wasn’t able to enter Russia or travel to another country. Snowden was offered political asylum by the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Earlier this month, the whistleblower applied for asylum in Russia. “I have just handed over to him papers from the Russian Immigration Service. They are what he needs to leave the transit zone,” Kucherena told Russia Today.
The lawyer said Snowden left the airport in a taxi at around 11.30 GMT, to travel to a secret location.
Over the course of July, Russian president Vladimir Putin repeatedly stated that he has nothing against Snowden remaining in Russia, as long as the former intelligence analyst stops damaging the country’s relationship with the US. The asylum offer could indicate that Snowden has already released most of the secret information he collected.
Kucherena said that Snowden is dealing with his security issues and housing personally, not helped by any third party. However, a tweet from Wikileaks claims that the whistleblower’s welfare “has been continuously monitored by WikiLeaks staff since his presence in Hong Kong”.
According to the lawyer, Snowden will engage with the press in the next few days. Earlier, Kucherena said his client was thinking about staying in Russia and attempting to build a new life, possibly even becoming a Russian citizen.
At the moment, Snowden is free to stay in Russia until 31 July 2014, but his asylum status could be extended.
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