Edward Snowden seeks US clemency

Last Updated: Saturday, November 2, 2013 - 10:07

Zee Media Bureau

Berlin: Fugitive leaker Edward Snowden has urged for international help to convince the US to drop spying charges against him.

In a one-page typed letter released on Friday by a German lawmaker who met with him in Moscow, Snowden said that he would like to testify before the US Congress about the National Security Agency`s surveillance activities.

The US, however, refused to show any leniency to the 30-year-old American.

The fugitive leaker also indicated he would be willing to help German officials probe alleged US spying in Germany, said Hans-Christian Stroebele, a lawmaker with the opposition Green Party and a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence.

Stroebele met with Snowden for three hours on Thursday, a week after explosive allegations that the NSA had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel`s cellphone prompted her to complain personally to President Barack Obama. The alleged spying has produced the most serious diplomatic tensions between the two allies since Germany opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The letter was written in English and had signatures that Stroebele said were his own and Snowden`s.

Snowden has complained that the US government "continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalise political speech with felony charges that provide no defence."

"However, speaking the truth is not a crime," Snowden wrote. "I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour."

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not respond directly to Snowden`s appeal, but said the US position "has not changed”.

"Despite recent reports or recent pronouncements from Mr Snowden, as we`ve stated many times before, he`s accused of leaking classified information, faces felony charges here in the United States and we believe he should be returned as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process and protections applicable under US law," Psaki said.

Snowden`s father, Lon Snowden, who recently visited his son in Russia and continues to communicate with him, told a news agency on Friday that Snowden will not travel to Germany to talk to authorities as long as the US charges remain in place.

"If they want to understand my son`s position about Germany, read his letter. It`s pretty clear. He is not going to Germany to testify as long as he is indicted by the United States and their position is what it is," the elder Snowden said, adding that his son would prefer to testify before Congress anyway.

"My son would love to come back to the United States but I`m not sure it will be safe for him, even if all charges are dropped," Lon Snowden said. "My advice would be to stay in Russia and move on with his life, and that`s what I believe he will do."

Stroebele said Edward Snowden appeared healthy and cheerful during their meeting at an undisclosed location in Moscow. The German television network ARD, which accompanied Stroebele, said the Germans were taken to the meeting by unidentified security officials under "strict secrecy”.

Snowden "said that he would like most to lay the facts on the table before a committee of the US Congress and explain them," Stroebele said. The lawmaker, a prominent critic of the NSA`s alleged activities, said Snowden "did not present himself to me as anti-American or anything like that — quite the contrary."

Snowden`s lawyer says his client has accepted a technical-support job with a major Russian website but refused to name it.

"He enjoys living in Russia. ... We have opportunities to visit cultural events. We have opportunities to show him our places of interest," attorney Anatoly Kucherena said.

He also said Snowden is studying Russian and has developed some competency in it.

The Russian news site Life News on Thursday published a photo showing Snowden on a boat in the Moscow River with the Christ the Savior Cathedral in the background. It said the photo was taken in September.

(With Agency inputs)



First Published: Saturday, November 2, 2013 - 09:55

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