NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden is too young to spend his life dodging extradition in remote foreign locales, Germany's justice minister said in advising the fugitive to return to the United States and face the charges against him.
Snowden's grant of political asylum in Russia expires today. Although Moscow authorities may approve the extension he requested this month, the 31-year-old "surely doesn't want to spend the rest of his life being hunted," Justice Minister Heiko Maas told German news agency DPA.
Snowden, who is wanted on US espionage and theft charges, has been living in Russia since being granted temporary asylum for a year on August 1, 2013.
Before landing in Russia, the former National Security Agency contractor turned up in Hong Kong after he absconded from his job in Hawaii with millions of classified documents.
German opposition politicians have been campaigning for months to bring Snowden from Russia to Berlin to testify before a parliamentary committee investigating US surveillance practices involving Germans' private communications.
The governing coalition headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected the notion of Snowden going to Berlin to testify, citing concern that Germany would be obliged to honour a US extradition request.
And granting political asylum to the fugitive wanted by Washington on felony charges could damage relations between the Western allies.
"It's a disgrace for the Western democracies - for Germany but also for the US - that someone like Snowden needs to be taken in by a despotic ruler like Vladimir Putin, because he can't get refuge in Germany or in the US," Greens Party lawmaker Konstantin von Notz told broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Tuesday.
Justice Minister Maas' advice to Snowden to seek some agreement with the US Justice Department that would allow him to return home was seen as a rejection of the notion that Germany would take in the fugitive against US wishes.
Snowden has hinted that he would like to return to the US if he would be assured of fair treatment in the US justice system.
He told NBC's Brian Williams in an interview in May that there has never been "any question that I'd like to go home".