Norway’s Bjørnson Academy isn’t abandoning its plan to welcome American whistleblower Edward Snowden to the city of Molde, and present him with its annual prize for advancing freedom of expression. The academy was disappointed, but not surprised, that Norway’s government wouldn’t guarantee he’d avoid arrest and extradition while in the country.
The academy’s attorneys, however, maintain that Justice Minister Anders Anundsen can provide Snowden with a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US, where he faces treason charges. The academy, named after the late Nobel Laureate and human rights champion Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, intends to ask the justice minister for a new evaluation and to ask the courts to evaluate in advance whether Snowden could be arrested and extradited.
“We haven’t given up hope about getting Snowden to Norway,” Hege Newth Nouri, president of the academy, told newspaper Dagsavisen. She is also the leader of Den norske PEN, another organization that advances the right to freedom of expression.
Nouri said the academy must nonetheless inform Snowden, currently in exile in Moscow, that he faces entry difficulties because US authorities cancelled his passport, and that there’s no political guarantee he could travel freely in Norway. “Then the next question to him will be whether he wants us to go further with this,” Nouti said. “This is all about his freedom.” The academy, she stressed, is willing to pursue the issue.
The academy and others have suggested that the Norwegian government is afraid of offending the US, a close ally, in the Snowden case. They couldn’t expect more from politicians in opposition, however, with Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre telling newspaper Klassekampen earlier this month that he wouldn’t offer any guarantee for Snowden either. Like Anundsen of the conservative Progress Party, Støre said a case like Snowden’s is a matter for the police, immigration authorities and the courts. Anundsen also has claimed that it would be up to Norwegian immigration authorities to decide whether Snowden could enter Norway without a passport, while the courts would need to rule on an extradition order.