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Edward Snowden
NewsHong Kong

Edward Snowden and Sami al-Saadi cases 'show double standards'

Activist contrasts HK's sticking to rules for NSA leaker with abrogation of them for dissident

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:33am

Both men were trapped in the same city, and both were hunted by the CIA while seeking a safe haven.

Edward Snowden and Sami al-Saadi came to Hong Kong not knowing what awaited them. But their lives took very different paths once they set foot in Chep Lap Kok airport.

Snowden, a former American spy, escaped the clutches of US justice because Hong Kong was a stickler for the absolute letter of the law. The national security leaker found safe passage to Moscow and avoided extradition to the United States.

Libyan dissident Saadi was forced onto a secret rendition flight to his home country, along with his young family, with a flagrant disregard for due process. Saadi was delivered into the hands of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, whose henchmen tortured him for years.

While the global political backdrop to the cases was markedly different, the stark contrast in the way they were treated has led a global human rights campaigner to accuse Hong Kong of double standards.

"The treatment of Edward Snowden highlights the mistreatment of Sami al-Saadi and it is damaging to Hong Kong's claims to fairness, due process and democracy," said Agnes Callamard, executive director of Article 19, a London-based human rights organisation that advocates freedom of expression and information.

"Saadi was expelled from Hong Kong with no ability to defend himself or his family; all due process was violated. He could not fight back, so at a basic level he was losing before he started. It's a major human rights violation."

Snowden arrived in Hong Kong on May 20 and left on a flight to the Russian capital 34 days later. In his wake he left explosive details of the US National Security Agency's electronic surveillance programmes in Hong Kong and the mainland.

Justice officials said a US extradition request was incomplete because it did not provide Snowden's correct middle name or his passport number.

Such details did not protect Saadi, who arrived in Hong Kong in March 2004 with his family en route to safe haven in Norway. He had spent most of his life in exile.

Instead, Saadi - who the CIA suspected was a terrorist - and his family were detained for two weeks with no legal representation before being forced onto a flight to Tripoli, where he was immediately jailed and tortured.

While Snowden's actions prompted wide-ranging debate about privacy and government accountability, there has been a chilling silence from all parties involved in the Saadi case.

"It is with the most difficult cases that you judge democracy and test human rights protection and in this situation, the Hong Kong government failed completely and utterly," Callamard said.

When Snowden was still in Hong Kong, Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok was asked if the government would offer him protection, to which Lai said: "Any person who considers his life to be at risk could seek help from the police."

In the days following Snowden's departure, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said extradition requests were handled according to the city's laws and unlawful or unfair treatment would not be allowed.

But the authorities did little to protect Saadi or his family when the CIA and its British counterpart MI6 asked local authorities to handcuff them and bundle them onto an empty, darkened plane without saying where they were going.

The Libyan's plight only came to light after CIA documents were found at the Tripoli offices of Gaddafi's intelligence chief, Musa Kusa, in August 2011 after the Libyan capital fell to rebels.

They show the secret backroom dealings between Gaddafi's henchmen and US spies. They also show the Hong Kong authorities demanding assurances that Saadi and his family would be "treated humanely and in accordance with human rights standards".

However, no government department will say if these assurances were given.

"This case is quite horrendous and was made possible because freedom of information and expression and access to justice - the essential ingredients to human rights and accountability - are probably not strong enough in Hong Kong," Callamard said.

Today, as Snowden settles into his new life in Russia, where he has been granted political asylum for a year, Saadi is still struggling to rebuild his life and that of his family in Libya.


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This article is now closed to comments

My guess is that the HKSAR government would have done the same with Snowden as it did with Saadi had it not been the central government to step in and tell HK to let Snowden go.
What evidence do you have that Al-Saadi is/was a terrorist, please? He was a Libyan dissident during the Gaddafi regime, but terrorist? Charged with what, exactly? Convicted of anything? Guilty until proven innocent?
Snowden on the other hand seems to be a well-intentioned person who in my opinion has done humanity a great service. It's about time that America woke up to the way in which its constitution and bill of rights have been trampled and that the rest of us realised that communications privacy has already completely gone. I'm sure the founding fathers, as well as George Orwell, are applauding him in their graves. Ironic that champions of liberty now find sanctuary from US tyranny in Russia. How the tables have turned!
One is a whistle blower, who shown to the world that even Hong Kong was being spied upon unnecessary by the United States, the other one was a suspected terrorist. That is no comparison.
You're missing the point. If he was a terrorist and they had evidence of such. They should have brought him before a court of law. Simples. Anything else subverts the system and relegates us to the level of terrorists.
Lana Lam's opening sentence, "Both men were trapped in the same city ... while seeking a safe haven," demonstrates ignorance and naivete. Neither men were trapped: for whatever reason, both chose to come here and both were free to go elsewhere. They were not trapped. That they were looking for a "safe haven" demonstrates their guilt: one was a traitor and the other a terrorist. Both men should face a firing squad!
Why? Why?!! Because the rule of law is the only thing that separates us from tyranny, keeps us civilised and gives us decency. That's why!
Looks like it's not Lana who's showing naivete and ignorance. If you were to search for safe haven from the mafia, is that a demonstration of guilt? Probably, but guilty of violation of whose laws? They were trapped here because Hong Kong officials can prevent you to leave if you're deemed liable to a criminal charge, especially at the US' request.
Furthermore, both traitor and terrorist are subjective terms; a traitor to one is a hero to another. Even in the US, whether Snowden is a traitor is fiercely debated. And labeling al-Saadi a terrorist has already been proven a mistake. Now one of the two had his life ruined because our government jumped the gun and became a lapdog for the CIA.
one is western, the other is a muslim. Enough said.
Carmeledwin you need to read up first before accusing someone of being a terrorist. Racist you are
Did they bring Osama Bin Laden to trial? They did not. They killed him. Yes they should have bring those people to court, but do you think the United States Government is law abiding? I have my doubts. However the point remains that one was suspected of terrorism and the other one was a whistle blower. That makes a difference. That also show the bias of this article.
The times when terrorists got a trial by law are long gone. Why should we be the only ones playing by the rules?
无论哪种方式,我想它是一个坏的时间去看望我的亲戚乡亲在莫斯科举行。 ......“也许到明年,这个垃圾都将工作本身。奥巴马认为,“斯诺登是人类唯一的东西出售给俄罗斯'?ooooooooo
Snowden was not a "former spy", he was a contractor for NSA. That does not make it right, but this article is using biased language.
أنا فقط لا احصل عليه؛ وفي الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، كنت من المفترض أن يكون بريئا، وثبت سمسم مذنب. كيف لنا أن نعرف ما قاله 'سنودن، أعطى أو (بيع) إلى الروس؟
'ولكن في الواقع، هنا، في الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، كنت مذنبا سمسم تثبت براءتها وأعتقد' أوباما هو جانب من الحقيقة، وتهدد روسيا مع ألعاب الأولمبية؟ هل يعتقد أوباما 'الروس من شأنه أن يفوت لنا ...؟ ...
وفي كلتا الحالتين أنا أخمن ه وقت سيء للذهاب زيارة بلدي كين الناس في موسكو. ... 'ربما بحلول العام القادم، كل هذا هراء وعملت نفسها بنفسها. هل يعتقد أوباما أن "سنودن هو الإنسان فقط مع شيء للبيع على 'روسيا ...؟ ooooooooo
Great point- The USA is a (hot-bed) of terrorist.
One was a white guy with a US passport, the other was not...'nuf sed
John Adams
Amen !


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