Edward Snowden’s lawyer on Wednesday sought to tamp down speculation that the fugitive whistle-blower could soon return to the United States.
Anatoly Kucherena told a news conference Tuesday that his client wants to go home and has teamed up with U.S. and German lawyers to work on the issue.
“Some reporters must have misinterpreted what I said during my press conference and jumped to the wrong conclusion that my client was about to go home already,” Kucherena told the Los Angeles Times in Moscow. “This is not happening until the U.S. government stops politicizing Edward's case and offers him a fair and unbiased trial.”
The 31-year-old former National Security Agency contractor, who is wanted on U.S. charges of theft and espionage, has been living in Russia since he fled there in 2013 and was granted asylum.
“Of course Edward is often homesick,” Kucherena said. “But the last thing he wants is to travel to the United States to be immediately imprisoned for an indefinite period pending trial when the government openly calls him a traitor.”
He said Snowden would welcome an opportunity to defend himself publicly in an open and fair trial, but that the chances of that happening appeared to be “very slippery.”
In the meantime, Kucherena said, Snowden has been enjoying working as an IT specialist at a Russian company. He receives regular visits from his longtime girlfriend, Lindsey Mills, and they spend their time “fruitfully,” going to museums, concerts and the theater, he said.
“Edward enjoys Russian culture and is eagerly learning the Russian language,” Kucherena added.
Snowden has not been assigned a round-the-clock security detail, Kucherena said, but “Edward understands full well that he should continue to be very careful about everything he does, given the potential security risks, which he doesn't believe are diminishing.”
Russian authorities won't stop Snowden if he decides to leave the country, according to an official with the Foreign Ministry.
“Edward is a free man in a free country, and it is up to him what to do with his life,” said the official, who refused to be identified discussing the sensitive subject.
But he added that given the tense relations between Russia and the United States over Ukraine, “right now or the near future doesn't appear to be the right time to travel back home.”