Snowden won't face the death penalty, says US
Edward Snowden will not face the death penalty if he is returned to the US to face charges of espionage, the US attorney general has told Russia.
Eric Holder wrote to reassure his Russian counterpart in an effort to head off the whistleblower's plea for temporary asylum in Moscow.
Mr Holder dismissed Mr Snowden's claims that he could face torture and execution if deported to the US as "entirely without merit".
"The United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr Snowden should he return to the United States," he wrote in the letter to Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov, the Russian justice minister.
"The charges he faces do not carry that possibility, and the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty eligible crimes," he wrote.
The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor has been charged with two counts of espionage and one count of theft of government property; each count carries a maximum of a decade in prison, if convicted.
Mr Holder added that if he returned to the US, Mr Snowden would face trial in a civilian court.
"We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr Snowden's claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum," Mr Holder wrote.
There was no immediate reaction from the Russian government but the letter was thought unlikely to sway the Kremlin, which has for a month ignored US calls for the fugitive to be handed over as he waits at Sheremetyevo International Airport for papers needed to leave.
Meanwhile, Mr Snowden's father, Lonnie, accused members of the US congress of mounting a "concerted effort" to "demonise my son". (© Daily Telegraph, London)