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article imageSwiss will grant asylum if Snowden testifies on U.S. espionage

By Greta McClain     Sep 8, 2014 in Politics
Berne - Swiss media reports indicate Switzerland would grant asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden if he agrees to testify about foreign espionage activities within Switzerland.
The revelation was first reported in the Swiss newspaper Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday. According to the paper, Snowden would not be extradited to the United States if he sought asylum and agreed to testify as a witness in criminal proceedings or as part of a parliamentary inquiry. The report also quotes Francesca Maltauro, coordinator business counsel with the Office of Attorney General's Ministry of Public Confederation (MPC), as saying the MPC is in the process of conducting "various investigations" regarding "various activities of foreign states in Switzerland."
A report by the Swiss news outlet Der Bund also states the Office of Attorney General is investigating the espionage activities of foreign states in Switzerland, and that federal prosecutors have already made plans to visit Snowden.
In a legal opinion by Sarah Progin-Theuerkauf, Professor of European Law and European Migration Law at Switzerland's University of Fribourg, Snowden would meet the criteria of the Geneva Refugee Convention (GRC) if he sought asylum in Switzerland. The opinion, entitled Asylum Legal Considerations: vulnerability of Edward Snowden, addresses the questions of whether Snowden is "vulnerable by the International Refugee Regime (II.) or under EU law (III.)." It also looks at the Swiss Asylum Act as it pertains to the existence of refugee status under the Geneva Convention. It details the nature of the charges against Snowden and various Swiss and international laws pertaining to refugee status and asylum. In the opinion, Progin-Theuerkauf concludes that Snowden meets the required criteria and that Switzerland should afforded him protection.
According to 24 Heures, a MPC document also concludes that Snowden should not be extradited if he seeks asylum. The November 2013 document, entitled A clarification of the question: what rules should be followed if Edward Snowden was taken in Switzerland and the United States filed a request for extradition, points to Snowden's willingness to testify. It states if Snowden is part of a public investigation conducted by the public prosecutor, the Federal Office of Justice would be unable to stop the investigation and extradite Snowden.
The document also states that Switzerland does not have to approve extradition if the reason for the extradition request is politically based or if the crime is a political offense. Since Snowden is wanted on charges of treason, extradition could be denied because treason would be considered a political offenses by Switzerland.
It is unclear how soon Swiss officials will meet with Snowden, or when he would arrive in the country if he agrees to testify. However, political officials within the Swiss government are calling for Snowden to be approached and allowed into the country as soon as possible. Luzi Stamm, Vice President of the Swiss People's Party and member of the parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe, believes the Swiss people have a right to an explanation regarding U.S. "espionage activities" within Switzerland, saying:
"We must now [move] forward so that Snowden can travel as soon as possible as a witness in Switzerland."
More about edward snowden, Nsa, National security agency, Whistleblower, Asylum
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