A court in Oslo, Norway, has denied National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden the right to free passage on Monday. Snowden was invited by the Norwegian branch of the PEN Club, which is a literary rights group, to come and collect the Ossietzky prize for freedom of expression on November 18. This award essentially acknowledges Snowden’s “outstanding contributions to freedom of expression.”
The ruling by the Oslo court means that Snowden has been refused assurances by the court that the Norwegian government will not allow the U.S. to extradite him when he comes to the country in November.
The Oslo court has rejected his lawsuit on the basis that the extradition cannot really be evaluated until a request is formally made by the U.S. The justice ministry of Norway actually made this argument, and the court upheld it. Essentially, this means that Norway can only decide whether to extradite Snowden or not only after the U.S. has asked for extradition in writing. In fact, the authorities in U.S. have already made their intentions clear about an extradition request should Snowden visit Norway, and he could actually face espionage charges. Snowden has been ordered to pay approximately $830 to the Norwegian government to cover the legal expenses for the court case, according to Reuters.
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Snowden had filed a lawsuit back in April predicting that the U.S. would want to extradite him considering he revealed the highly confidential and potentially illegal information of PRISM, a mass surveillance program run by the NSA, and was consequently charged with theft of state secrets. However, Snowden fears that he will be extradited if he travels to Norway to collect the award. He has been living in Russia in exile since 2013.
Snowden’s association with Norway is quite a strong one. In fact, Norway was one of the countries where Snowden sought asylum when he fled from the U.S., his native country. However, Norway clearly stated that Snowden would have to be physically present in the country to seek asylum. He has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the third year in a row, and the awards ceremony is supposed to happen in Norway on October 7.
William Nygaard, the head of Norwegian PEN, said in a statement in response to the verdict, “If Edward Snowden gets extradited, this would be a political and legal defeat that will arouse international attention.”
Reuters believes that the verdict will be appealed once again by Snowden’s legal team.
Recently, the Guardian reported that Edward Snowden’s lawyers are going to put more pressure on the Obama administration for a presidential pardon, which is the only way possible for him to be relieved of all the charges levied against him.
ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, Snowden’s principal legal adviser, said, “We’re going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists.It’s not for when somebody didn’t break the law. It’s for when they did and there are extraordinary reasons for not enforcing the law against the person.”
Snowden, however, thinks that such a pardon is not feasible and that Obama would not give it, especially just before he leaves office.
Snowden said, “There is an element of absurdity to it. More and more, we see the criticisms levelled toward this effort are really more about indignation than they are about concern for real harm.”
All things considered, it looks like Snowden will have to once again rely on the Snowbot, a robot that consists of a flatscreen monitor and camera on top of a Segway-like moving base, to be present in Norway to subvert the ruling.
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