Russia Suspends Opposition Leader’s Sentence. Will It Quiet Criticism Of Kremlin? (+video)

Kennedy International Airport in New York, October 16, 2013, shortly after returning to the United States from a weeklong visit with his son in Moscow. Credit: Reuters/Reuters TV By Denis Fitzgerald NEW YORK | Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:02pm EDT NEW YORK (Reuters) – The father of Edward Snowden said on Wednesday that the former U.S. spy agency contractor has more secrets to share and should stay in Russia “to make sure the true story is told.” Father Lon Snowden spoke at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York shortly after returning to the United States from a weeklong visit with his son in Moscow. It was the first time they saw one another since Edward Snowden, an ex-National Security Agency contractor, was given temporary asylum in Russia earlier this year after leaking sensitive data on U.S. security agencies’ operations. Asked what he told his son during the visit, Snowden told reporters: “To stay, but that’s my advice. It’s not necessarily what my son will do. He’s comfortable. He’s happy. And he’s absolutely committed to what he has done.” The younger Snowden’s revelations about the reach and methods of the NSA, including the monitoring of vast volumes of Internet traffic and phone records, have upset U.S. allies from Germany to Brazil. Admirers call him a human rights champion and critics denounce him as a traitor. “There’s much more to be shared,” Lon Snowden said. Staying in Russia, Snowden said, allows his son “to continue to push these issues forward, to make sure the true story is told.” “He’s not a fugitive.

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All the prosecutors, all the lawyers, all the judges are just extras here. In July, a lower court handed down an embezzlement conviction to the outspoken lawyer who rose to prominence during large-scale street protests against President Vladimir Putin in 2011 and 2012. He was released the next day pending the outcome of his appeal. Some political observers felt jailing Navalny could empower the opposition and make him into a martyr, reports Russias official RIA Novosti news agency. In the interim, Navalny ran in the high profile Moscow mayoral race where he won a solid and some say legitimizing 27 percent of the vote against a Putin-allied incumbent. His campaign touched on widespread corruption under President Putin and anti-migrant sentiments , reports Agence France-Presse. Since the court today did not overturn Mr. Navalnys guilty verdict, he is unable to run for public office until his suspended sentence is fulfilled. He has expressed interest in running for president in 2018. The suspension of the sentence Wednesday suggested a willingness of the Kremlin to accept the trade-off in greater legitimacy for the political system here in exchange for tolerating Mr. Navalnys often stinging criticism of Mr. Putin, reports The New York Times. Reuters notes that if he had been jailed today, street protests could have exploded once again and it would have invited more international attention and criticism of the rule of law and democracy in Russia. The Christian Science Monitors Russia correspondent, Fred Weir, reported in July that when asked Do you think that the trial of Alexei Navalny is the result of his political activities and his opposition views? nearly 60 percent of Russian respondents answered “yes,” while just under 20 percent said “no.” Increasing numbers of people insist that they have no faith in Russia’s courts , nor in the law enforcement bodies that choose which investigations to pursue and what evidence to admit, Mr. Weir wrote. They include US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul , who issued a distinctly undiplomatic Tweet after hearing of the [July 18, 2013] verdict: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of @Navalny and the apparent political motivations in this trial.” Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev , who has repeatedly lambasted Mr. Putin for hijacking Russia’s democratic experiment, posted a comment on his foundation’s websitecontending that the conviction of Navalny “is proof that we do not have independent courts” in Russia.

Lon Snowden, father of Edward Snowden, shown in this still image from Reuters TV footage, speaks to reporters at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, October 16, 2013, shortly after returning to the United States from a weeklong visit with his son in Moscow. REUTERS/Reuters TV

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