US tells Russia Snowden won't face death penalty

In an effort to reassure Russian officials, the U.S. says it would not torture or execute him if he were extradited

Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, in Hong Kong, June 9, 2013. (the Guardian/Getty Images)
The Guardian/ Getty Images

The U.S. will not seek the death penalty for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden who leaked classified information about the NSA’s secret surveillance program, Attorney General Eric Holder has told the Russian government.

In a letter dated July 23, the attorney general said the criminal charges Snowden faces do not carry the death penalty and that the U.S. will not seek the death penalty even if Snowden were charged with additional crimes that could qualify for capital punishment.

Holder said his letter follows news reports that Snowden has filed papers seeking temporary asylum in Russia on grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty.

Earlier Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Putin is determined not to allow a standoff over Snowden to hurt ties with the U.S., Reuters reports. The American government wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage.

Peskov said Putin had expressed "strong determination" not to let relations 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 federal security service, the FSB, and its U.S. counterpart, the FBI, were in talks on the matter.

"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 U.S. colleagues," Peskov told journalists.

Source: Wire services

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