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Switzerland 'could grant Edward Snowden asylum if he testifies against NSA'

Swiss media say the Attorney General has also concluded that they would not extradite the whistleblower if the US request is considered politically motivated

Natasha Culzac
Monday 08 September 2014 13:34 BST
Edward Snowden could be granted asylum in Switzerland if he testifies against the NSA, it has been reported in Swiss media
Edward Snowden could be granted asylum in Switzerland if he testifies against the NSA, it has been reported in Swiss media (Getty)

Switzerland would grant Edward Snowden asylum if he revealed the extent of espionage activities by the US government, recommendations by the Swiss Attorney General reportedly conclude.

According to Swiss newspaper Sonntags Zeitung, an official has said that Mr Snowden should be guaranteed safe entry and residency in the country, in return for his knowledge on America’s intelligence activities.

Last month, Mr Snowden was told he could remain in Russia for another three years.

He was not granted political asylum, but again awarded temporary residence as an extension of the one-year visa given to him last summer.

In the Swiss document, the question “What rules would apply if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and the United States makes an extradition request?” was posed, leading officials to consider the diplomatic headache that would follow their acceptance of Mr Snowden as political refugee.

In it, four possibilities were reportedly examined, with the Attorney General stating that he would be interested in a testimony by Mr Snowden against the National Security Agency (NSA) and his full disclosure of its widespread surveillance.

Mr Snowden’s participation could be part of criminal proceedings or as part of a parliamentary inquiry, Swiss paper Le Matin says, and that extradition would be rejected if the country thinks it is being sought on political grounds or if the former assistant at the CIA faces the death penalty at home.

The report also states that the Swiss Office of Attorney General's Ministry of Public Confederation (MPC) is investigating the activities of “foreign states in Switzerland” including activities such as espionage.

As reported by Der Bund, however, the report does acknowledge that “upper-level government commitments” could create an obstacle.

Mr Snowden’s Swiss lawyer Marcel Bosonnet reportedly welcomed the conclusions, saying: “The legal requirements for safe conduct are met”, and said that Mr Snowden is interested in applying for asylum.

Following Mr Snowden’s extensive leak of NSA documents in 2013, he fled first to Hong Kong and then to Russia, living within the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, before being granted residency in the country.

After the leak, he was charged by the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence. Each charge has a maximum 10 years sentence.

In contrast to Switzerland, a Norwegian MP has today said that if Snowden wins the Nobel Peace Prize - for which he was nominated earlier this year - and travels to collect it, host country Norway would have no option but to arrest him.

According to The Nordic Page, conservative MP Michael Tetzschner said Norway can and should arrest him, fulfilling the international agreements they have.

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