NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been living in Russia for nearly one year. Now German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has suggested he go back to the US, sparking outrage among left-wing politicians.
In an interview with the dpa news agency, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said that Edward Snowden's best bet at life after the National Security Agency (NSA) revelations was to go back to the US and face trial: "He is only in his early thirties and would definitely not want to spend the rest of his life being chased around the world or applying for one asylum after another."
Maas said that Snowden's lawyers were talking to American officials and looking into the possibility of Snowden returning to the US. "If both sides agree, it would serve Snowden's purpose," he said.
However, various German opposition politicians have criticized Maas's statements. Konstantin von Notz, a Greens parliamentarian and member of the German NSA inquiry committee, said that the German government was "behaving very cynically."
"It's a disgrace for the western democracies - for Germany but also for the US - that someone like Snowden needs to be taken in by a despotic ruler like Vladimir Putin, because he can't get refuge in Germany or in the US," explained Von Notz.
For months now, the German opposition has been proposing that Snowden be questioned by Germany's NSA inquiry committee in order to shed light on the scale of US intelligence spying in Germany. Von Notz said that Maas should arrange for Snowden to face the committee but "unfortunately he isn't doing that."
No asylum in Germany
Snowden previously expressed his interest in coming to Germany, but the US has sent a formal "arrest request" to the German government, which has complicated matters. It is unclear whether the German authorities would arrest him or deport him to the US once he landed in Berlin.
"We have asked the US government some questions regarding this, but we haven't got any answers," said Maas. "We are being cautious and want to know exactly how Snowden would be treated if he appears for a trial in the USA."
The German government has repeatedly rejected the idea of granting Snowden asylum. Just last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that Snowden did not meet the conditions for asylum.
Opposition puts forward ultimatum
The politicians critical of Maas's statements are determined to turn the situation around. "Whether Snowden is taken in by Germany or not is a purely political decision," said Left Party politician Jan Korte.
Together with the Greens, The Left is prepared to go to court in order to force the NSA investigation committee to question Snowden. The majority of the committee, which is largely made up of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their coalition partner, the Social Democrats, is against the move. The Green and Left panelists have now filed an official request asking the German government to revise the decision at its first sitting after the summer break at the latest. Should this request not be met, the opposition will take the matter to the constitutional court.
It is not certain, however, whether Snowden will still be in Russia at the time when the German constitutional court is likely to take on the case. Snowden's term ends on July 31 and it is not yet clear whether the Russian government will permit him to stay longer. According to his lawyer, he has submitted an application for an extension.