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Lawmaker: Edward Snowden wants to testify, says he's no 'enemy of America'

By Laura Smith-Spark and Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1905 GMT (0305 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Edward Snowden won't leave Russia to testify on U.S. spying claims, attorney says
  • Snowden would like to testify in Washington, German lawmaker says
  • Stroebele: "He didn't present himself as an enemy of America, quite the opposite"
  • Snowden would like to go to Germany if he were safe from extradition, Stroebele said

Berlin (CNN) -- A German lawmaker who met Edward Snowden in Moscow on Thursday said Friday that the National Security Agency leaker offered to testify in front of the U.S. Congress.

"He didn't present himself as an enemy of America, quite the opposite," German member of parliament Hans-Christian Stroebele told reporters in Berlin Friday.

Stroebele said he had suggested Snowden testify before German lawmakers and that the former NSA contractor responded that in fact he wants to testify in Washington.

Snowden said he might go to Germany, if he gets assurances that he could stay in a safe place afterward without being deported to the United States, said Stroebele, a well-known leftist legislator in Germany.

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However, Snowden's attorney, Anatoly Kucherena, told reporters in Moscow that his client would not be leaving Russia to testify on the U.S. spying allegations.

Kucherena said he would advise Snowden not to testify at all if it is not in his client's best interest.

Snowden has been in Moscow since June, having fled there from Hong Kong. In August, after he spent five weeks holed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, Russia granted him asylum for one year.

Snowden: 'Heartened by the response'

Stroebele returned from the meeting with Snowden on Thursday with a letter from the NSA leaker to German authorities, which was distributed to the media.

In the letter, Snowden says he is "looking forward to speaking" with German authorities in Germany "when the situation is resolved" -- a reference to the current efforts by the United States to extradite him.

Snowden also wrote that he was "heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond.

"Citizens around the world as well as high officials -- including in the United States -- have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service."

The benefits of this knowledge to society are becoming increasingly clear, and the "claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated," he added.

Stroebele said he didn't know if Snowden had sent a similar letter to other governments in Latin America or elsewhere.

The United States has charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.

The 30-year-old collected information on spy programs -- in which the National Security Agency mined phone and Internet metadata from thousands of people inside and outside the United States -- and exposed the programs to the media, prompting uproar at home and abroad.

German outrage

Snowden's letter to German authorities comes amid outrage among many German leaders about claims that an NSA surveillance operation targeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone.

Snowden "is an important witness for Germany," said Stroebele.

But asked if Snowden could testify to German authorities via video link from Moscow, Stroebele said that could be problematic for several reasons.

He suggested Snowden would be more limited in what he could say if he were in Moscow than if he were in Germany.

So long as Snowden has asylum in Russia, he needs to avoid doing anything that would negatively affect his status there, the lawmaker said.

In his closing remarks, Stroebele said that although the United States believes that Snowden has committed a serious offense, he believes he should not be penalized because his revelations have benefited the world.

Stroebele also said Snowden, who was due to start a new job in Russia on Friday, appeared to be in good health.

Kucherena told CNN on Thursday that the job was with a major Russian website but declined to give the employer's name for security reasons.

He told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti that Snowden would perform maintenance for the site.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reported from Berlin and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London. CNN's Alla Eshchenko, Diana Magnay and Richard Allen Greene contributed to this report.

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