MP calls on Denmark to offer asylum to whistleblower Snowden

Uffe Elbæk says it would be “huge” to offer Snowden asylum and that democracy and due process should trump Denmark’s relationship with the US

UPDATE, Aug 1, 14:46: Reuters is reporting that Edward Snowden has left Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, where he had been since June 23, and has been granted refugee status by Russia.

ORIGINAL, Aug 1, 10:59: The former culture minister, Uffe Elbæk (Radikale), said it would be "huge" if Denmark were to offer asylum to American whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

Writing on Facebook, the MP said that he "would certainly be proud if Denmark gave Edward Snowden asylum".

Elbæk expanded on his Facebook comment in an interview with DR News.

"The situation that Edward Snowden finds himself in is completely unsustainable," he said. "I think it is on the verge of a double standard that we want to protect whistleblowers who take a risk on behalf of the collective good to strengthen democracy and a law-based society, while at the same time 'shooting the messenger'. He has been left in the lurch in Russia."

Snowden, who exposed the US government's mass surveillance programmes carried out by the National Security Agency, applied for asylum in 21 countries including Norway and Germany. He has not applied for asylum in Denmark. 

Elbæk said he'd like the Danish government to "take up the debate" about offering Snowden asylum.

"I think we should have a good explanation for why we wouldn't give him asylum. What is the judical rationale for not doing it? There are surely good reasons, but let's find those reasons."

One of the main reasons, Elbæk acknowledged, would be the damage it would do to Denmark's relationship with the United States. The US Congress is advancing legislation to impose sanctions on any country that offers asylum to Snowden.

"Democracy is more important to me than the United States," Elbæk told DR News. "Of course we have good and binding relationships with the US, but that doesn't change the fact that our due process and our democracy is more important for me."

Elbæk's suggestion has failed to gain any traction with his colleagues in parliament. 

Jeppe Kofod, a spokesperson for the ruling Socialdemokraterne, told Berlingske Nyhedsbureau that giving asylum to Snowden would be "a very bad idea".

"The discussion on Edward Snowden's actions is something that should occur within the [American] court system, and we shouldn't interfere with it here in Denmark."

Morten Messerschmidt, an MEP for far-right Dansk Folkeparti, was more direct in his response to Elbæk's suggestion.

"It is a completely misplaced, populist and ridiculous suggestion by Elbæk," Messerchmidt told the Ritzau news bureau. "Snowden did something that was completely illegal and he should of course face the consequences of his actions."

Snowden has been in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since June 23. He has been offered asylum by three Latin American countries – Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua – but is unable to leave the airport because the US has revoked his passport and filed criminal charges against him. Snowden is awaiting a response from Russia on his application for political asylum there. 

The Guardian newspaper today published new revelations from Snowden's leak that show that the NSA collects "nearly all we do online".

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