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Norwegian PEN chapter sues its country to ensure Snowden can receive Ossietzky Prize in person

TechCrunch TechCrunch 21/04/2016 Devin Coldewey

The Norwegian chapter of writers’ rights organization PEN International is suing its own government in an attempt to make it safe for Edward Snowden to accept the prestigious Ossietzky Prize in person — without fear of extradition to the United States.

The Carl von Ossietzky Prize has been awarded yearly by Norsk PEN since 1994 for exceptional work promoting freedom of speech. It’s named after a famous German pacifist who exposed the country’s illegal rearmament and faced charges of high treason — so he and Snowden would have had a lot to talk about. In fact, in the March announcement that Snowden was to receive the prize, Norsk PEN called the whistleblower the “Ossietzky of our time.”

The problem is that Snowden is unable to receive the award in person, because, well, he’s technically an international criminal at large. He was also the winner of the Bjørnson prize in 2015, and despite a petition asking the Prime Minister to guarantee Snowden free passage, he ended up accepting the award via trademark Snowden video chat.

Norsk PEN doesn’t want that to happen again — so they are attempting to force the government’s hand with a lawsuit.

“A prosecution against Snowden under the US Espionage Act constitutes a political offense within the meaning of Norwegian and international law.  Accordingly, the lawsuit asserts that extradition of Edward Snowden would be contrary to law, and that the court should so declare,” reads the press release.

The law firm representing Norsk PEN and Snowden added (translated from the Norwegian): “His actions are political in nature, and this means that under Norwegian extradition laws, he cannot be extradited.”

People seeking refuge from persecution are often dogged by crimes “political in nature,” and it may be that Norwegian law does provide Snowden and others like him with the opportunity to apply for asylum before any consideration of extradition. The issue was not addressed in time for him to attend the Bjørnson ceremony last September, but the Ossietzky won’t be given out until November. Here’s hoping the Norwegian court system is more efficient than ours.

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