Snowden would not face torture or death penalty, US says

Protection promises on return of whistleblower made in letter to Russia

A television screen shows former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

A television screen shows former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden during a news bulletin at a cafe at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 16:17

Former US security contractor Edward Snowden would not face the death penalty or be tortured and would have all the protections of the US civilian court system if he were sent home, the chief US prosecutor wrote in a letter to his Russian counterpart this week.

In the letter dated July 23rd and released today, US attorney general Eric Holder wrote that he sought to dispel claims about what would happen to Mr Snowden if Russia handed him over to face charges of illegally disclosing government secrets about surveillance programs.

Earlier today, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he was determined not to allow a spat over Mr Snowden to hurt ties with the United States, his spokesman said .

However, the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Mr Putin was not involved in talks over the fate of the 30-year-old whistleblower, who is wanted by the United States on espionage charges and has been stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month.

Russia has refused to hand over Mr Snowden, who leaked details of secret US electronic surveillance programmes to British and US media, to the United States, and is considering a temporary asylum request.

Mr Peskov said Mr Putin had expressed “strong determination” not to let ties with Washington suffer over the dispute, “no matter how the situation develops”.

But he reiterated Moscow’s stance that Russia “did not hand over, does not hand over and will not hand over anybody”. He added that Russia’s FSB federal security service FSB and its US counterpart, the FBI were in talks on the matter”.

Mr Snowden has not filed any requests that would need to be considered by the head of state. The president is not taking part in discussing the problem with US colleagues,” Mr Peskov told journalists.

Meanwhile Germany’s president said whistleblowers like Mr Snowden deserved respect for defending freedom. Weighing in on a debate that could influence September’s federal election, President Joachim Gauck struck a very different tone from that of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has assured Washington that Berlin would not shelter Mr Snowden.

Mr Gauck, who has little power but great moral authority, said people who work for the state were entitled to act according to their conscience, as institutions sometimes depart from the law. “This will normally only be put right if information is made public. Whoever draws the public’s attention to it and acts out of conscience deserves respect,” he told today’s Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

Reuters