The leader of Germany's opposition Greens suggested on Monday that Europe provide a safe haven for former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations about the extent of US surveillance programmes have infuriated America's allies.
Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader and candidate for chancellor of the Greens, Germany's third biggest party, told German television it was an outrage that the 30-year-old former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor should be seeking asylum in "despotic" countries.
"It's painful for democrats that someone who has served democracy and, in our view, uncovered a massive violation of basic rights, should have to seek refuge with despots who have problems with basic rights themselves," said Trittin.
"Someone like that should be protected," he said. "That counts for Mr Snowden. He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done us a service by revealing a massive attack on European citizens and companies. Germany, as part of Europe, could do that."
Trittin did not specify which "despots" he was referring to.
Snowden flew from the United States to Hong Kong and is now in an international airport in Russia seeking asylum in Ecuador - the country that has been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy since last year.
European concern over US spying tactics flared anew at the weekend after German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the NSA had tapped communications at EU offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations.
According to the report, the NSA taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month, much more than any other European peer. Britain's Guardian newspaper said the United States had also targeted non-European allies.
The revelations have enraged America's foreign partners and sparked a debate over the balance between the protection of privacy and national security. The Germans are particularly sensitive about this, having experienced the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and the Gestapo under the Nazis.
"This used to happen in the Eastern bloc but you were aware of it. You knew everything was bugged so you didn't talk to each other. You just went for a walk in the forest," Martin Schulz, the German president of the European Parliament, told German radio. "It is no way to treat your closest partners."
Chancellor Angela Merkel has not commented on the latest report. She said during a visit by US President Barack Obama earlier this month that some questions about the US programme, code-named Prism, still needed to be cleared up. Obama tried to reassure Germany that the programme was well within the law and that the emails of ordinary citizens were not being monitored.
Trittin said that in reponse to the latest revelations, the EU should suspend exchanging banking and flight data with the United States.
He said plans to create an EU-U.S. free trade zone should only be pursued if rules were upheld "such as respecting commercial secrets rather scouting them out via espionage".