- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 23, 2016

Edward Snowden has been invited to Norway to be awarded for outstanding contribution to freedom of expression, and attorneys for the former NSA contractor want a court to guarantee he can pick it up in person without being extradited upon arrival.

The Norwegian branch of the PEN Club, an international free expression group, has chosen to award its annual Ossietzky Prize to Mr. Snowden for revealing “questionable, extensive global surveillance” through the NSA disclosures that made him a wanted man in the United States. The honor is named for Carl von Ossietzky, a German winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and will be handed out during a ceremony in Oslo on November 18. The former NSA analyst hasn’t left Russia since he was granted asylum in 2013, however, and risks arrest if he travels most anywhere to answer to espionage charges at home.

Along with Schjødt, a Norwegian law firm, PEN has filed a petition in Oslo City Court in order to allow Mr. Snowden to personally attend the ceremony without fear of extradition, his attorneys said Thursday.

Hallvard Helle, a lawyer with the group, told Reuters this week that American authorities have already asked that Mr. Snowden be extradited to the U.S. if he arrives in Norway, but doesn’t think the Norwegian government should honor their request.

“A prosecution against Snowden under the U.S. Espionage Act constitutes a political offense within the meaning of Norwegian and international law,” the firm said in a statement. “Accordingly, the lawsuit asserts that extradition of [Edward Snowden] would be contrary to law, and that the court should so declare. The Espionage Act prohibits [him], or any whistleblower in his position, from raising any defense that he acted in the public interest, that the disclosures benefited society, or that the disclosed information had been improperly withheld by the government. Therefore, Snowden’s conviction under the Espionage Act would be a foregone conclusion, and he would face decades in prison in isolating conditions.”

“We will do our utmost to ensure that Snowden may receive the prize in person,” the firm said in a statement.

Gunnar Johansen, a spokesman for Norway’s justice ministry, told AFP that the government wouldn’t comment on individual extradition cases, especially one that hasn’t been heard in court. Indeed, Mr. Helle told Reuters that the Norwegian authorities have yet to comment publicly, and hopes the petition will establish a legal clarification ahead of November’s ceremony.

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