A lawsuit filed in hopes of allowing Edward Snowden to attend an upcoming awards ceremony in Oslo without being extradited was rejected Wednesday by a Norwegian appeals court.
The Borgarting Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court’s decision to dismiss a petition filed after Mr. Snowden was announced as the recipient of an award being presented by the Norwegian branch of the PEN Club, an international free expression group.
Mr. Snowden, 33, is scheduled to be honored Nov. 18 with its annual Ossietzky Prize for revealing “questionable, extensive global surveillance” as a result of the secret government documents he leaked in 2013 while employed as a NSA contractor. As the United States’ most well-known fugitive, however, personally attending the ceremony would undoubtedly give way to his immediate arrest and extradition.
Attorneys for PEN asked the Oslo City Court in April to guarantee Mr. Snowden won’t be sent to the U.S. for prosecution if he attends the ceremony in person, but their lawsuit was rejected in June. That ruling was unanimously upheld Wednesday by a three-person appeals panel, and is expected to be challenged before Norway’s high court.
“The court of appeal has — like the district court — concluded that the lawsuit must be rejected,” the appeals court said in its 8-page ruling, per a translation by the Reuters news wire.
It’s not up to Norway’s justice ministry to decide in advance whether or not it will extradite someone, the ruling said, according to Reuters.
“The government of Norway is fighting to prevent presentation of a freedom of speech award. Talk about winning a battle instead of the war,” Mr. Snowden wrote to his 2.4 million Twitter followers Wednesday.
The latest rejection “was not entirely unexpected,” chairman William Nygaard of PEN Norway told Reuters. “We will of course appeal to the supreme court.”
Mr. Snowden has been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with espionage and other crimes as a result of his leaks, and a subsequent asylum bid approved by Russia has allowed him to reside around Moscow ever since free from extradition. In April’s petition, attorneys with PEN said that Mr. Snowden’s disclosures may be considered a political offense under Norwegian law and that extraditing him would therefore be illegal.
“The Espionage Act prohibits [Snowden], 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,” they wrote.
PEN said previously that U.S. authorities already requested Norway extradite Mr. Snowden should he arrive for the prize or any other purpose.