Several members of the Icelandic Parliament introduced a bill Thursday that seeks to grant Icelandic citizenship to U.S. National Security Agency document leaker Edward Snowden, but the bill won’t be discussed until September.
On Thursday, Snowden formally filed a request for citizenship to the Icelandic Parliament, according to Birgitta Jónsdóttir, member of the Icelandic Parliament for the Icelandic Pirate Party.
Snowden, who disclosed secret information about the data collection programs of the NSA, had his passport revoked by the U.S. government and is believed to be in the transit area of the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow since flying there from Hong Kong almost two weeks ago.
With assistance from a legal advisor to WikiLeaks, Snowden has requested political asylum from more than 20 countries, including Iceland, but none of the requests have been granted so far. Some countries have already rejected the requests on different grounds, including the fact that their laws require asylum requests to be made on their soil.
Iceland’s possible amnesty offer
The Icelandic Parliament has the power to grant Icelandic citizenship by law in special circumstances, including for humanitarian reasons. In 2005 it granted citizenship to American chess grand master Robert James Fischer, known as Bobby Fischer, after the U.S. government revoked his passport due to an outstanding arrest warrant against him for violating economic sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia in 1992.
“The parliament has finally received a request for citizenship from Mr. Snowden and many of the parliamentarians believe it is their duty to offer Mr Snowden shelter, for his U.S. passport has been stripped from him and he has been left de-facto stateless by his own government,” Jónsdóttir said Thursday in a blog post. “The parliamentarians and many Icelanders share the same concerns as Amnesty International that if extradited to the U.S. Mr Snowden could be at risk of ill-treatment and possibly a subject of torture.”
Jónsdóttir, together with four other Icelandic MPs representing the Pirate Party, the Left-Green Movement, Bright Future, and the Social Democratic Alliance, introduced a bill on Thursday in parliament to grant Snowden citizenship. Thursday was the last day of meetings before the parliament went on recess.
“The reason for the delay in putting forward the bill is that the parliament had not received a formal request from Snowden until today,” Jónsdóttir said.
The Icelandic Pirate Party MPs tried to get the bill sent to a parliamentary committee for evaluation and discussion in the evening, but the majority of the parliament voted against it, said Aðalheiður Ámundadóttir, an assistant to the Icelandic Pirate Party MPs, speaking in a personal capacity. “They were not proposing a discussion of the bill in parliament last night, but only to send it to the relevant committee.”
The bill’s status is still pending, but the parliament will be in recess until the beginning of September so there will be no discussion until then, a spokeswoman for the Icelandic Parliament said.
It’s still possible for the bill to be discussed and voted on by the parliament in September, but it’s not clear if other options will be explored until then. The Pirate Party MPs have not had a chance to discuss what to do in the meantime, Ámundadóttir said.
“I can assure you this is not the end of this case,” said via email Páll Valur Björnsson, an Icelandic MP for the Bright Future party who also sponsored the bill.