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Interview: Snowden safe in Moscow airport until better option found: expert

English.news.cn   2013-06-25 22:30:33            

by Liu Hongxia, Igor Serebyany

MOSCOW, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Russian authorities can do nothing about fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if he is in Moscow airport's transit zone and does not try to leave, an expert says.

"A person may stay in a transit zone indefinitely. A state has no jurisdiction over that area," Eugeny Varshavsky, a former head of the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) Department for Legal Support, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

"Anyone in a transit zone enjoys immunity like a foreign diplomat: He or she cannot be arrested, interrogated or otherwise be restricted in freedom," Varshavsky said.

"If the state believes a person violates this country's law or poses a security threat, deportation may be considered, but only to the country of his or her citizenship," he added.

Meanwhile, Snowden's readmission was unlikely to happen as Moscow and Washington were unlikely to find common ground in that particular case, he said.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had nothing to do with Snowden as he had not crossed the Russian border.

"He chooses his route himself. We learnt about his movements from mass media," Lavrov told a press conference after talks with his Algerian counterpart, Mourad Medelci.

The minister's remarks were correct because, technically, a transit zone's legal status was somewhat similar to the status of the open sea, Varshavsky said.

Such an area had a special legal regime governed by Geneva and the Hague conventions, as well as international transit regulations, he added.

The 30-year-old IT specialist had three options to end his adventure, Varshavsky said.

"He may at any moment ask a representative of the Russian Federal Border Service to either let him into the country as a refugee status claimant, or call U.S. consulate, or to ask a consul of any country to arrive at the Sheremetyevo international airport so he can ask for political asylum in that country," he said.

According to Varshavsky, Snowden is likely busy exploring the option of moving to a third country as a political refugee under the UN Refugee Convention of 1951.

These negotiations, or "bargaining," could last indefinitely because the Sheremetyevo transit area was the only place now where the U.S. citizen could feel safe, he said.

"The U.S. secret services may, of course, attempt to carry out a special operation to fish their citizen out of the Moscow airport," the expert said.

"However, this would constitute a grave violation of Russian and international laws. The transit zone is not a battlefield. Any secret operation will be regarded by Russia as a gross violation of laws and its participants will be treated like common criminals, not combatants," he said.

Editor: yan
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