Home > Blog

Edward Snowden unable to collect prize due to extradition threat

The Snowden Extradition Saga continues..

Edward Snowden a former United States citizen has appealed to Norwegian courts to be allowed into the country to accept a peace award without being extradited back to the United States. Norway has held that they cannot guarantee National Security Agency whistleblower protection from extradition to the United States if he travels to the country to collect an award.

Edward Snowden’s top extradition lawyers are afraid he will be extradited to the United States if he travels to Norway to collect a prize from PEN Norway. In April 2016 Snowden’s top extradition lawyers stated that they would be taking the Norwegian government to court to ensure Snowden would be able to travel to Norway in November to collect his prize from PEN.

Snowden could face up to thirty years in prison if he returns to the United States and faces the charges against him of espionage and theft of state secrets. Prior to 2013 when Snowden left the states to seek refuge in Russia, he revealed to journalists, information about the United States secret surveillance programs. At the time Snowden was a National Security Agency contractor, while supporters see Snowden as a whistle blower, a man who shone a light on the indiscretions within the United States agencies, the United States government believes he is a man who has committed a crime for leaking intelligence.

Since 2013 Snowden has been living in Russia where he was granted asylum. Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the United States unlike Norway who entered into an agreement in June 1977 and the agreement being given effect in March of 1980.

Snowden was invited to Norway by PEN international, a non-political organisation founded in 1921, PEN international now consists of over on hundred countries and holds special status as a consult at the UN and associate status as UNESCO. Snowden was invited by PEN to collect the Ossietzky prize for his efforts to enhance freedom of expression, with the presentation due to take place on November 18th 2016.

This is not the first time Snowden has been awarded a prize and unable to accept in person. In 2015 Snowden won an award of a similar nature but again was unable to attend as it was presented in Norway. For the third year straight Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the winner is due to be announced on the 8th October but Snowden again for a third year will be unable to attend the ceremony in Norway. The Nobel peace prize is a prestigious prize that is a great honour to receive, unfortunately for Snowden even if he does win this year he ricks extradition to the United States if he attends the presentation ceremony.

Unfortunately for Snowden in June the Oslo district Court rejected the case brought forward by Snowden’s top extradition lawyers. Snowden’s top extradition lawyers then appealed to Norway’s Court of Appeal unfortunately in September 2016 the Court of Appeals ruling was to follow the decision of the lower court. The Court held that the case must be rejected, they held that the Justice Ministry cannot be placed under pressure to give advance decisions on extradition.

As William Nygaard, the chairman of PEN Norway, has stated the rulings handed down by the Oslo District Court and Court of Appeal were not unexpected decisions. Both Nygaard and Snowden’s top extradition lawyers are not yet defeated and are appealing to the Supreme Court.

According to the Oslo district court an early decision on extradition cannot be considered because Snowden has not stepped on Norwegian soil and Washington DC has not filed a request for Snowden to be extradited to the United States. The court of appeal concurred that a formal appeal from the United States must be received before a decision can be made.

This is not the first time Norway has made a similar decision on Snowden’s potential extradition to the United States. In 2013 when Snowden released to the media information about the National Security agencies surveillance programmes he applied for asylum in Norway. The response in 2013 was similar with the Oslo district court stating that for a person to seek asylum in Norway they must be physically present in the country, application could not be made overseas. Snowden although grateful for the asylum Russian governments have offered has stated that he would prefer to be in western Europe or back in the United States.

Unfortunately for Snowden the risk is that if he goes to Norway, Washington DC will make a formal appeal to have him extradited to the United States. This is a risk that understandably Snowden may not want to take and his top extradition lawyers would certainly not advise taking. Snowden did not enter Norway in 2013 to seek asylum nor did he enter the country to receive a different prize in 2013 this would suggest that if the Supreme Court do not rule in his favour he will not be accepting the Ossietzky prize in person in November as the risk of extradition to the United States is too high. If Snowden is extradited to the United States he faces charges under the Espionage Act, this means he would be tried before a judge as opposed to a jury and it is suggested these initial charges would see him face at least thirty years in prison and then he would most likely charged with numerous other charges.

Unsurprisingly Snowden is upset with the result from the court as it is once again another barrier to overcome. Snowden took to Twitter after receiving the news, expressing his disappointment he stated that the fight Norway’s government has taken is to win the battle, not the war. It seems sad that a person who is being recognised for outstanding efforts for freedom of expression is unable to have those efforts celebrated. Both PEN Norway and Snowden’s top extradition lawyers are insistent that they will not give up this fight and will be petitioning the Supreme Court to allow safe passage in November.