The families who shielded Edward Snowden from arrest want political asylum in Canada, according to the lawyers representing their case.
The legal reps were apparently inspired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s comment on Twitter in which he welcomed refugees of the world to Canada because the lawyers have cited Trudeau’s “commitment in taking a clear lead internationally in welcoming refugees.”
Snowden, who leaked thousands of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents, is currently living at an unknown address in Russia and recently had his stay there extended until 2020.
The families are living in Hong Kong and claiming that they are facing persecution there.
Snowden flew to Hong Kong from his IT contractor job with the NSA in Hawaii. He was subsequently charged with two counts of espionage and one of stealing government property. If captured, put on trial and convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
During his stay in Hong Kong he evaded arrest by staying with various families before finding temporary asylum in Russia. They have spoken publicly about their role in keeping Snowden’s location a secret for weeks.
A congressional inquiry has determined that Snowden compromised national security by leaking vital information.
“The families that sheltered me have formally filed for asylum in Canada. Let us pray Canada protects them in kind,” Snowden wrote on Twitter.
Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office has not responded to queries on the asylum request.
The website “For the Refugees” was established by the lawyers and has posted statements claiming it is urgent that Canada grant asylum to the Hong Kong families. The website has raised about $100,000 in donations.
“These families, including three young and stateless children, face persecution in Hong Kong and in their home countries,” the statement said.
“We are encouraged by Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment in taking a clear lead internationally in welcoming refugees,” Canadian lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin said in the statement.
“It’s up to Canada now to do the right thing,” he said.
Another Canadian lawyer who lived in Hong Kong from 2009 to 2013 says the families seeking asylum have been threatened since they revealed their role in hiding Snowden. Francis Tourigny suggests their situation is “a matter of life and death.”
Snowden’s lawyer claims that Snowden would return to the United States if he could be guaranteed a fair trial.