Edward Snowden says he will return to US if guaranteed a fair trial: ‘I’m not asking for a pardon’

Intelligence whistleblower fled to Russia in 2013 to avoid espionage and theft charges

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 17 September 2019 17:55
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Edward Snowden: 'The one bottom line demand that we all have to agree to, is that at least I get a fair trial'

Edward Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States so long as he is guaranteed a fair trial after being accused of espionage and theft for leaking intelligence secrets in 2013.

In an interview with CBS, the former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor - who fled to Russia to avoid criminal charges - described the request as “the bottom-line that any American should require”.

“One of the big topics in Europe right now is should Germany and France invite me in to get asylum ... And of course I would like to return to the United States,” Mr Snowden, 36, said.

“That is the ultimate goal,” he added, “But if I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison, the one bottom-line demand that we all have to agree to is that at least I get a fair trial. And that's the one thing the government has refused to guarantee because they won't provide access to what's called a public interest defence.”

Mr Snowden has long described himself as a whistle-blower who leaked secret information about the NSA spying on the American public, before fleeing the country by travelling through Hong Kong to Russia, where he has been living under asylum.

He is currently promoting his autobiography titled “Permanent Record”, which details his experience leaking those records and which is published internationally this week. Mr Snowden was charged with espionage under former President Barack Obama.

In his latest interview, Mr Snowden said he was not seeking a pardon from Donald Trump or any special treatment from the US when detailing his demands for a possible return to the country.

“I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon,” he said. “I’m not asking for a pass. What I'm asking for is a fair trial.”

He said he wanted a jury to be granted permission by a judge to consider his motivations in leaking America’s classified secrets. If that does not happen, the jury would only be able to determine whether a law was broken — which Mr Snowden said “defeats the purpose of a jury trial”.

“They want the jury strictly to consider whether these actions were lawful or unlawful,” he said, “not whether they were right or wrong.”

Mr Snowden has previously said he would be willing to return to the US. The previous White House administration said he failed to submit officials documents to request clemency under Mr Obama in 2015, however, despite over one million people signing a petition calling for him to be pardoned.

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Moscow has extended Mr Snowden’s asylum until 2020.

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