June 19, 2013

Iceland: 'Informal talks' about Snowden asylum

The Associated Press

STOCKHOLM — 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, officials there said Wednesday.

Johannes Skulason, an Icelandic government official, told The Associated Press that WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson had held informal talks with assistants at the Interior Ministry and the prime minister's office.

Skulason said Hrafnsson "presented his case that he was in contact with Snowden and wanted to see what the legal framework was like."

Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson earlier Wednesday told reporters in Sweden that there had been no formal discussions on the matter. To apply for asylum, Snowden must be on Icelandic soil.

Hrafnsson told the AP he had talked to an intermediary that he was "100 percent sure represents Mr. Snowden," but declined to identify the intermediary.

Hrafnsson said he had met with people at the Icelandic ministries and reported back to his contact, but couldn't give any more details about when or how Snowden would possibly travel to Iceland.

In an interview published shortly after he outed himself as the source behind stories about the U.S. spy agency's online surveillance programs, Snowden floated the idea of heading to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. He told the Guardian newspaper that he was inclined to seek asylum in a country that shared his values — and "the nation that most encompasses this is Iceland."

Snowden, who used to live in Hawaii, initially fled to Hong Kong and is now in hiding.

It's not clear whether Iceland could protect a leaker like Snowden from American demands for his return. Iceland has a longstanding extradition treaty with the U.S., though it has never been used to deport an American citizen.

Instead, the small island nation has a tradition of providing a haven for the outspoken and the outcast, and has previously welcomed eccentric chess master Bobby Fischer and WikiLeaks secret-spiller Julian Assange.

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