U.S. tells Russia it won't seek death penalty for Snowden

In this image provided by Human Rights Watch, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, center, attends a news conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, left, Friday, July 12, 2013. Russian state news agency said Wednesday, July 24, 2013 that US leaker Edward Snowden has been granted a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Rusia last week after his attempts to leave the airport were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage. (AP Photo/Human Rights Watch, Tanya Lokshina)

In this image provided by Human Rights Watch, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, center, attends a news conference at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport with Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, left, Friday, July 12, 2013. Russian state news agency said Wednesday, July 24, 2013 that US leaker Edward Snowden has been granted a document that allows him to leave the transit zone of a Moscow airport and enter Russia. Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Rusia last week after his attempts to leave the airport were thwarted. The United States wants him sent home to face prosecution for espionage. (AP Photo/Human Rights Watch, Tanya Lokshina)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder has told the Russian government that the U.S. will not seek the death penalty for former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden.

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 death penalty-eligible crimes.

Holder says his letter follows news reports that Snowden, who leaked information on largely secret electronic surveillance programs, 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.

The attorney general's letter was sent to Alexander Vladimirovich Konovalov, the Russian minister of justice.

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