Snowden invited to testify in Germany (with safe passage) over NSA spying

Hans-Christian Ströebele, a German Green party leader, has invited NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to a a German government hearing on American surveillance of Germans. The idea has a lot of political juice in Germany, it seems, thanks to the news that the NSA had spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Interestingly, the German rules on witnesses at these hearings have the state ensuring the witness's safe passage, which may get Snowden safely out of Russia (where he's been granted a year-long visa) and into a country from which he could apply for asylum. Snowden sent a letter to Chancellor Merkel in which he offered to cooperate in an inquiry on US spying in Germany and expresses his desire to travel to Germany to do so.

The latest developments will encourage those who hope Germany may eventually grant political asylum to Snowden. In June, his application for asylum there was rejected by the foreign ministry because, legally, he had to apply for asylum in person and on German soil. If Snowden was brought to Germany as a witness, he could meet these requirements.

Activists are said to be considering other means of getting Snowden to Germany. Under paragraph 22 of the German residence law, Snowden could be granted a residence permit "if the interior ministry declares it to be in Germany's political interest". After reports of Merkel's mobile phone being hacked by the NSA, such conditions could be said to apply.

Some German politicians and newspaper columnists have backed calls for Snowden to be invited as a witness. The justice minister, Sabine Leuheusser-Schnarrenberger, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper: "If the allegations build up and lead to an investigation, one could think about calling in Snowden as a witness."

Thomas Oppermann, of the Social Democrats, said: "Snowden's claims appear to be credible, while the US government has blatantly lied to us on this matter. That's why Snowden could be an important witness, also in clearing up the surveillance of the chancellor's mobile."

Germany may invite Edward Snowden as witness in NSA inquiry [Philip Oltermann/The Guardian]

Snowden's letter of appeal to Washington.