- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

Former intelligence contractor and fugitive Edward Snowden has once and for all been honored by a Norwegian free expression group following a lengthy legal battle before the nation’s highest court.

Members of the Norwegian chapter of PEN personally awarded Mr. Snowden with its annual Ossietzky Prize in Moscow last month in place of holding a ceremony in Oslo as desired, the group’s head, Hege Newth Nouri, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, was first announced as the recipient of the group’s annual free expression award in April 2016 for leaking NSA documents unveiling the U.S. government’s “questionable, extensive global surveillance,” according to Ms. Nouri and company. He remains the subject of an active arrest warrant for related charges four years later, but has evaded U.S. authorities cloaked by Russian asylum.

Lawyers for the PEN Club’s Norwegian chapter fought for months in local and federal courts to let Mr. Snowden pick up his award in person without being whisked away to the U.S. and potentially incarcerated for decades. Attorneys asked an Oslo City Court judge last April to let Mr. Snowden safely attend the ceremony, but their petition was rejected two months later. The case was unsuccessfully brought before a three-person appeals court and was eventually dismissed by the Norwegian Supreme Court last November.

The award was given to Mr. Snowden on April 21 in Moscow but went unreported for a week. English news reports of the event first appeared online Wednesday after Ms. Nouri confirmed the meeting to the AP.

“I’m grateful for the support from Norwegian PEN” Mr. Snowden said at the ceremony, according to PEN.

Nevertheless, the NSA leaker said he was disappointed Norway wouldn’t allow him safe passage so he could personally pick up his award, a lithography by Norwegian artist Nico Wideberg.

“It’s sad,” Mr. Snowden told Norway’s Aftenposten, according to an English translation of a recent interview. “The Norwegian government had the opportunity to recognize what had been done in this case when the Norwegian PEN invited me to Norway to receive the prize, but instead they chose to use lawyers to fight in court,” he said.

Mr. Snowden, 33, has resided around Moscow since being granted asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. His current asylum status is set to expire in 2021. In January, meanwhile, his attorneys made a case for asylum before the European Parliament.

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