BERLIN - Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has offered to testify to German authorities about the National Security Agency's mass surveillance after meeting with a Green Party lawmaker in Moscow.
Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele displays a letter he claims to have received from Edward Snowden, at a news conference in Berlin on Friday. (AP Photo)
Hans-Christian Stroebele presented a letter attributed to Snowden in which the fugitive accuses the US government of "systemic" crimes. he said he was facing a "severe and sustained campaign of persecution" for disclosing intelligence secrets.
Snowden would be willing to travel to give testimony if he were able to remain safely in Germany, Stroebele said.
"I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact" in an investigation, Snowden wrote in the letter signed by himself and Stroebele.
The lawmaker posted photographs with Snowden on his website.
Revelations last week that the NSA may have tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone and anger at US surveillance have prompted German lawmakers to call for a parliamentary investigation into the matter.
Merkel dispatched a team of intelligence officials to the White House this week to "rebuild trust" after she spoke with President Barack Obama on Oct 23 to vent her anger.
While the German government would be open to listening to what Snowden has to say, government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters, any invitation to give testimony would have to come from investigators.
It's possible for Snowden to speak with authorities outside Germany, though Snowden said he opposes such a prospect, according to Stroebele.
Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, reiterated that leaving Russian territory would end his refugee status, according to the Interfax news agency.
Snowden, 30, faces espionage charges in the US for disclosing several top-secret NSA surveillance programmes, including hacking of private Internet systems and widespread spying on allies and adversaries of the US. Governments from Brazil to Germany have expressed outrage.
Stroebele said the 30-year-old American was in good health.
"He’s able-bodied but also committed and beyond all else, when it comes to his campaign of disclosure, he’s very, very serious and poised. He mentioned repeatedly what a huge risk he took."
Snowden’s one-year asylum visa, which the Russian government granted him on Aug 1, has sparked a rift between the Cold War foes and prompted Obama to cancel a planned summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The former contractor, who currently has no passport, could receive free passage in Germany and protection from extradition to the US if Merkel’s government granted him a visa, ARD television said, citing an assessment of the research office of the German lower house of parliament, or Bundestag.
Stroebele traveled to Moscow with two German ARD reporters. The three were picked up at a hotel in central Moscow and driven to a secret location, the lawmaker said.
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