Snowden Reportedly In 'Informal' Asylum Talks With Iceland

Jun 19, 2013

Edward Snowden, the man commonly called "the NSA leaker" for his role in publishing documents that exposed a secret U.S. surveillance program, would reportedly not receive special treatment from the United Nations if he applies for asylum. The AP says Snowden is in "informal talks" with Iceland about applying for asylum there.

Snowden's last known location was Hong Kong, where he was when revelations about the secret PRISM program first came out. At the time, Snowden told The Guardian, which published several stories based on the information he provided, that he would like "to seek asylum in a country with shared values." He named Iceland as a prime example.

But as Iceland's ambassador to China explained to the South China Morning Post, an applicant for asylum in Iceland must already be in the country. In an email to the newspaper, Ambassador Kristin Arnadottir also said that Iceland's Ministry of the Interior handles all asylum applications, reports the web site Ice News.

The Morning Post reports that U.N. official Nazneen Farooqi, of the High Commissioner for Refugees' office in Hong Kong, said they don't give special priority to certain cases.

"We prioritize older cases," she said at a press conference about World Refugee Day (which is today).

The newspaper says that means an application could take months or years to process. And it adds that Farooqi was speaking in hypothetical terms, as her office does not discuss — or affirm the existence of — specific asylum claims.

As The Two Way reported last week, Snowden isn't alone in feeling an affinity for Iceland. It has also served as a haven for WikiLeaks and U.S. expatriate Bobby Fischer, who died in Iceland in 2008.

Citing officials in Iceland, the AP says that a WikiLeaks spokesman "who claims to represent Edward Snowden has reached out to government officials in Iceland about the potential of the NSA leaker applying for asylum in the Nordic country."

The news agency says that WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson held informal talks with staff members working in the Interior Ministry and for the prime minister. According to Icelandic government official Johannes Skulason, WikiLeaks' Hrafnsson says he is in touch with Snowden and is exploring the asylum process.

We should note that in Fischer's case, the former chess champion was in legal limbo while in Japan, with the U.S. government wanting to speak with him about breaking a sanction against Yugoslavia. In that case, Iceland extended citizenship to Fischer outright, and Japan chose to send him to the country.

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