“I believe that…it is unlikely that I would receive a fair trial or proper treatment prior to the trial, and face the possibility of life imprisonment, and even death,” he wrote in the extradition letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Norway's NRK channel.
The letter was sent by fax to the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, as Snowden hid in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, and then forwarded to the foreign ministry in Oslo with the headline, “”VERY URGENT VERY! SNOWDEN SEEKS ASYLUM IN NORWAY”.
Norway rejected the application on procedural grounds, saying that asylum requests could only be considered when the applicant was already either at a Norwegian border station or actually in Norway.
Jøran Kallemyr, an Undersecretary at Norway's Ministry of Justice, said that should Snowden come to Norway, he risked being extradited to the United States before his asylum request is even considered.
“It is the case that in an asylum assessment, one considers what are the possible grounds for protection, but here there is an extradition request from a country that we perceive as having the rule of law, so here it would be appropriate that the prosecution office evaluate the case for extradition — but it is up to the courts to decide whether such action can happen before they have processed the application for asylum.”
Emanuel Feinberg, a lawyer representing the Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression, which is lobby Norway's government to allow Snowden to come to the country to collect a free speech prize, argued that Snowden's actions, in leaking huge volumes of secret US documents, were clearly political in nature.
“In extradition requests, you distinguished matters that are common from those which have predominantly political character,” he said. “It is reasonably clear that the offences Snowden is persecuted for by the United States were aimed at the US government.”
Eric Holmøyvik, a law professor at the University of Bergen, said that he believed that if the case ever got to the courts, it would rise up to the Supreme Court before Snowden could be extradited.
“There is little case law in this area. Therefore, I believe that such a case would have to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” he said. “The prohibition against extraditing people for political offences is absolute. The key question will be whether Snowdon's offence can primarily be said to be aimed at the American government and social order, in other words that it is not an ordinary crime.”
He said he doubted that the courts would succumb to political pressure from Norway's government.
“Norwegian courts are today very conscious of their independence. The Mullah Krekar case is a recent example of that.”