Norway moves to reject Snowden lawsuit

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Edward Snowden. File photo: Svein Ove Ekornesvåg / NTB scanpix
13:24 CEST+02:00
Norway’s state attorney has requested that Oslo District Court reject a lawsuit brought by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden that would prevent the former intelligence worker from being extradited during a visit to Oslo.

Freedom of speech organisation PEN Club’s Norwegian branch has invited Snowden, who has been living in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing widespread US foreign surveillance, to collect the Ossietzky Prize for freedom of expression in November.

In a statement, PEN said a law firm had then filed a petition with Oslo District Court "in order to allow Snowden to travel to Norway without fear of extradition to the US, where he faces decades of imprisonment under the Espionage Act".

It is this petition that the state attorney has now requested that parliament reject, according to Aftenposten, which reports that it has access to the state's official written response to the lawsuit.

The state’s position is based on the contention that Snowden’s case is criminal rather than civil in nature and should therefore be tried as such – which would only be possible should an extradition request be received.

Law firm Schjødt, Snowden’s representatives in Norway, did not immediately comment on the state attorney response.

Halvar Helle of Schjødt told Aftenposten earlier this year that the lawsuit brought by the firm sought to ensure that Norway would not be able to extradite Snowden to the US, since such a case had not previously been tried in Norway.

“The Snowden case is unique, but is built on well-tested principles. Both Norwegian and international laws on extradition make it clear that Snowden could not be extradited since the accusations against him are political in nature,” Helle told Aftenposten in April.

Meanwhile, the state attorney’s response also points out that it is far from certain that Snowden, who no longer has a valid US passport, would be allowed to travel into Norway in the first place.

Snowden’s potential presence in Norway can also have “possible ramifications for fundamental national interests or foreign policy concerns,” the state attorney response reads.

Snowden, 32, was charged by US authorities with espionage and the theft of state secrets after revealing the extent of surveillance programmes run by the National Security Agency. He has been living in exile in Russia since 2013.

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PEN Norway’s chairman William Nygaard told Aftenposten that Snowden has agreed to travel to Norway – provided that he can be guaranteed safe conduct.

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