A German court has overturned a decision that would have required Berlin to transport whistleblower Edward Snowden to Germany and shield him from the U.S. government. Germany's Federal Court of Justice published a ruling Wednesday in favor of the German government's position that Snowden didn't need to travel to Berlin for questioning from an ongoing investigation into U.S. surveillance.
German officials suggested Snowden, a former National Security Agency employee who lives in Russia, be questioned via a video link instead. But Snowden has refused to cooperate with the investigation unless he is granted immunity and is allowed to travel to Berlin, according to local media reports.
German lawmakers launched the investigation into U.S. spying in March 2014 after Snowden shared documents detailing Washington's mass surveillance of its allies and enemies across the globe, as well as U.S. citizens. After two lawmakers overseeing the government committee's probe demanded that Snowden be called in as a witness, the federal court ruled in February that the former NSA security contractor should travel to Berlin with the guarantee that he wouldn't be extradited to the U.S.
Lawmakers from the Christian Democratic Union and Social Democratic Party appealed the ruling. The court's decision made public Wednesday backed up their stance that Snowden wasn't crucial to the investigation. Germany also argued it could not guarantee Snowden's protection because he is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges.
The Snowden leaks disclosed that Washington spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, among other revelations. Lawmakers from the opposition Green and Left parties had requested that Snowden be allowed into Berlin.
“My standard was that spying among friends is not acceptable, and if it happens we have to intervene,” Merkel told lawmakers in February as part of the investigation. She noted the importance and difficulty of “finding the right balance between freedom and security.”
But Martina Renner of the Left Party said the German government “fears [Snowden’s] testimony.”
When the leaks were first revealed in 2013, dozens of German political leaders called on Berlin to offer Snowden asylum. Heiner Geissler, the former general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said at the time: "Snowden has done the Western world a great service. It is now up to us to help him."
More from Newsweek