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German lawmakers decide to quiz Snowden

Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal
Accused government whistleblower Edward Snowden is seen on a screen as he speaks via video conference with members of the Committee on legal

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers decided on Thursday they want to question former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden as part of a parliamentary inquiry into the mass surveillance of German citizens, which he exposed.

"A majority of the committee has decided that we want to hear Mr. Snowden," said Roderich Kiesewetter, the conservative head of the committee set up to investigate the activities in Germany of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

It has not yet been decided whether Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia, should be invited to testify in person about the NSA surveillance that has soured ties between Washington and Berlin. Snowden risks being arrested and extradited if he sets foot in any U.S.-allied country.

He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person.

An option would be for him to testify from abroad but the German opposition argues that Snowden would only be able to express himself freely if he were in Germany.

Angela Merkel's conservatives have so far rejected this, fearing that bringing Snowden to Berlin could further damage relations with Washington which have suffered from revelations that U.S. spies had tapped the German chancellor's own phone.

The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who share power with Merkel's conservatives in a 'grand coalition', have said they are open to questioning Snowden in Germany or Russia.

(Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Stephen Brown)

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