Saturday 20 January 2018

High Court refuses Snowden extradition request

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden

A HIGH Court judge has refused a US request to issue a provisional warrant for the arrest of former US National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden should he arrive in Ireland.

Mr Snowden is wanted by the US authorities for offences including alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information.

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh said today he was refusing the US request of July 5, made through the US Embassy in Dublin, to grant the warrant because there was insufficient detail in the US documents as to where it was alleged the offences were committed by Mr Snowden.

The alleged offences include unauthorised disclosure and theft of government property. 

The US request did not state where any of the alleged offences actually took place, he said.

Sworn information available to the US court which issued the warrant seeking Mr Snowden's arrest provided a timeframe within which Mr Snowden was definitely in America - between March 2013 and May 19, 2013, the judge noted.

After that, on the information available to the High Court, Mr Snowden was outside the US - in Japan and Hong Kong, the court was told.

It was of note the offences with which Mr Snowden is charged relate not to publication of the information but to its unauthorised disclosure, the judge said.

The issue was whether the request for the warrant told the High Court where the unauthorised disclosure took place. In that regard, it seemed there were a number of possibilities - that the information was disclosed in the US; in Japan sometime on or after May 19, 2013; or in Hong Kong sometime after May 20, 2013, the judge said.

"The question of where the offence took place is not a minor detail but is a matter which could have very serious consequences in any further stage that might be reached in an extradition process," he said.

If it was the case the offences took place outside the US territory, the question would arise whether there was extraterritorial effect in respect of the US offences and, "more importantly", whether the Irish equivalent offences have an extraterritorial aspect to them, he said.

There would have to be sufficient similarity between the two offences before there could be an extradition, the judge said

While that was not a matter before him now, he was referring to it to indicate the importance of indicating the place where it was alleged the offences were committed.

On foot of the request from the United States, the Attorney General had applied under the Extradition Act for a provisional arrest warrant for Mr Snowden.

The matter came before the High Court last Saturday when Mr Justice MacEochaidh was the duty judge. 

In his judgment given yesterday, he refused to issue the warrant sought.

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