MOSCOW, July 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Justice Ministry is preparing a reply to the US attorney general’s letter seeking the return of fugitive former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden to America to face espionage charges, the Justice Ministry’s press office said on Sunday.
“The Justice Ministry of Russia will prepare a reply to a letter by US Attorney General Eric Holder, which was received on July 24, 2013,” the ministry’s press office said, without specifying the nature of the reply or the time it would be ready.
In his letter, Holder assured Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov that US prosecutors would not pursue the death penalty against Snowden in connection with espionage charges for leaking information about classified government surveillance programs.
“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,” Holder said in the letter, adding that Snowden’s grounds for seeking temporary asylum in Russia are “entirely without merit.”
Holder said Snowden “will not be tortured” if Snowden is returned to the United States from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been reportedly living since arriving on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23.
“Torture is unlawful in the United States,” Holder said.
Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking classified data about the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, formally requested temporary asylum in Russia on July 16.
Washington has repeatedly called on Moscow to reject Snowden’s request for asylum and send him back to the United States to stand trial on charges of espionage and theft.