The United States’ top lawyer has assured the Russian government that the U.S. has no plans to seek the death penalty for former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden, who has been charged with espionage and is seeking asylum.
In a letter dated Tuesday, Attorney-General Eric Holder said the criminal charges Mr. Snowden now faces do not carry the death penalty, and the U.S. will not seek his execution even if he is charged with additional serious crimes.
Mr. Snowden has been charged with three offences, including espionage, and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted. He is believed to have been staying at the Moscow airport transit zone since June 23, 2013.
Mr. Holder’s letter was sent to Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov, the Russian Minister of Justice.
The Attorney-General’s letter may allay reported Russian concerns about how Mr. Snowden might be treated if he is deported to the U.S. Some Russian politicians, including parliament speaker Sergei Naryshkin, have said Mr. Snowden should be granted asylum to protect him from the death penalty.
“I can report that the United States is prepared to provide to the Russian government the following assurances regarding the treatment Mr. Snowden would face upon return to the United States,” Mr. Holder wrote. “First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States.” In addition, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States,” Mr. Holder’s letter said.
The Attorney-General said that if Mr. Snowden returned to the U.S., he would promptly be brought before a civilian court and would receive “all the protections that United States law provides.”
Despite the revocation of Snowden’s passport on June 22, 2013 Mr. Snowden remains a U.S. citizen and is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States, said the Attorney-General.