The United States will not seek the death penalty for fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by AFP yesterday.
Holder said in the letter addressed to his Russian counterpart that "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."
Snowden, whom Washington wants to put on trial for disclosing details of massive US surveillance, has been marooned at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for more than a month.
He has asked Russia for asylum but his fate remains uncertain.
In the letter dated Tuesday, Holder stressed to Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov that Snowden would not be tortured.
"Torture is unlawful in the United States," he wrote.
"If he returns to the United States, Mr Snowden would promptly be brought before a civilian court convened under Article III of the United States Constitution and supervised by a United States District Judge."
Holder said Washington believes "these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr Snowden's claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise."
Holder also said that, despite news reports and Snowden's belief to the contrary, the 30-year-old is able to travel and eligible for a "limited validity passport."
"Despite the revocation of his passport on June 22, 2013, Mr Snowden remains a US citizen," Holder wrote.
"He is eligible for a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States. The United States is willing to immediately issue such a passport to Mr Snowden."