MOSCOW — A Russian lawyer assisting former CIA contractor and self-declared leaker Edward Snowden said Wednesday he expected his client would be able to leave the transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport within a week.
Anatoly Kucherena said he expected a positive response within a week to Snowden's request for temporary asylum in Russia. The U.S. citizen has been stranded at the airport since June 23.
Snowden, 30, has been charged with espionage by the United States and his passport was revoked after leaks about the country's spying methods, including eavesdropping on global email traffic, have upset U.S. allies and foes alike.
Kucherena also told NBC News that Snowden wrote a note requesting temporary asylum by hand at his suggestion because, he said, it would appear more personal and convincing.
The attorney said that, within a week, Snowden should be receiving a document — a type of identification card — that he can use to leave the airport transit zone and live a normal life as he waits out the three months it's likely to take to approve his temporary asylum request.
In Russia, temporary asylum is granted for a year and can be extended. Unlike political asylum, which would require a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the decision to grant temporary asylum is officially up to the Federal Migration Service.
Kucherena said he was convinced Snowden's application would be accepted on humanitarian grounds, since his client expressed fear for his life if he were to return to America.
The lawyer said Russia cannot, by law, hand Snowden over to a country that uses "torture and the death penalty."
The United States on Tuesday repeated its call for Russia to send Snowden back, saying he was not a human rights activist or dissident and was accused of leaking classified information.
Eventually, Snowden hopes to seek permanent asylum in Latin America. He already has offers of asylum from Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
If the logistical difficulty of getting to Latin America hasn't changed after the year-long temporary asylum is up, Snowden can renew it each year, and even become a Russian citizen after five years, if he so chooses.
Should that happen, Snowden will no doubt find that a gift he's received from his lawyer — an illustrated Russian alphabet book — will come in handy.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published July 17 2013, 4:46 PM