30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Iceland cannot grant asylum to Snowden unless he's there, ambassador says
Iceland cannot grant US whisteblower Edward Snowden asylum as long as he is in Hong Kong, the country's ambassador to China has said.
"According to Icelandic law a person can only submit such an applications once he/she is in Iceland," Kristín Árnadóttir, the Icelandic ambassador in Beijing, told the South China Morning Post in an e-mailed statement.
"The Ministry of the Interior in Iceland deals with issues of this nature and handles applications for asylum," she wrote.
Snowden has expressed his hope to move to Iceland in an interview with The Guardian, published earlier on Monday. His wish to leave Hong Kong for Iceland comes at a time when the US National Security Agency is seeking a criminal investigation into his leaking of a secret eavesdropping programme by the US government.
The US can seek his extradition from Hong Kong on the basis of a 1997 treaty.
"My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values," he told the British daily. "The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be."
On Sunday, an Icelandic opposition member of parliament publicly called on the country's new interior minister to grant Snowden asylum.
"We are already working on detailing the legal protocols required to apply for asylum, and will over the course of the week be seeking a meeting with the newly appointed interior minister of Iceland, Mrs. Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, to discuss whether an asylum request can be processed in a swift manner, should such an application be made,” Birgitta Jonsdottir of the Pirate Party said in a joint statement with Smari McCarthy, executive director of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.
The party entered the Icelandic parliament only earlier this year, holding three out of 63 seats.