German parties lose court bid to quiz Snowden in Berlin
BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in Moscow, is seen on a giant screen during a live video conference for an interview as part of Amnesty International's annual Write for Rights campaign at the Gaite Lyrique in Paris December 10, 2014. REUTERS PhotoGermany's top court said Dec. 12 it rejected a bid by leftist opposition parties to call former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as a witness in a parliamentary probe of US intelligence activities.
The Federal Constitutional Court said in a statement it did not have jurisdiction in the case brought by the Greens and Left parties in October against the government and the parliamentary committee conducting the investigation.
The probe, launched in March, aims to assess the extent of spying by the National Security Agency and its partners on German citizens and politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, and whether German intelligence aided its activities.
The government and the committee have blocked calls to bring Snowden, who is regarded as a traitor by the US administration and subject to an arrest warrant, to Germany from Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum.
Officials have cited fears of a strain on ties with Washington if they invited Snowden and then refused to extradite him to face charges in the United States.
The ruling left-right coalition would prefer to question Snowden in Russia or via a video link but Snowden has declined these options.
The court said the case did not pertain to a constitutional right of the minority parties on the committee to question a witness but rather a "procedural review of the committee's work".
It said Germany's Federal Court of Justice would be better suited to hear the case. It was not immediately clear whether the parties would appeal to that tribunal.
In June, German justice had announced that a criminal case had been opened into the alleged spying by foreign intelligence services on German soil.
Chief federal prosecutor Harald Range said Thursday he had found no evidence so far in the course of an investigation that Merkel's mobile phone had been hacked, the biggest bombshell for Germany in the allegations based on documents leaked by Snowden.
Privacy issues are particularly sensitive in Germany, as bitterness lingers over mass state spying on citizens by the Stasi secret police in former communist East Germany where Merkel grew up.