So much for Iceland's bid as the world safe haven from government (and intellectual status quo) persecution. The tiny country that was such a vocal supporter of Julian Assange, and which originally was speculated as being the final destination of Snowden upon his departure from Hong Kong, has just opined on his request for Icelandic citizenship, and the answer is a resounding no, following the country's "parliament voted not to debate it before the summer recess" Reuters reports.
It was none other than chess legend Bobby Fischer who was granted Icelandic citizenship by parliament in a comparable procedure after he got into trouble with the United States over tax evasion and breaking sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992. Apparently Snowden's was not worthy enough for comparable treatment.
In doing so, Iceland effectively washes its hands of Snowden's fate, and the vote leaves the whistleblower with one option less as he seeks a country to shelter him from U.S. espionage charges. How much longer Snowden's limbo state in the Moscow transit terminal continues is unclear, but according to media reports, Putin is getting increasingly displeased with the lack of resolution which may mean that sooner or later, Snowden will have no choice but to head back to the one country's whose massive internal espionage aparatus he revealed for the entire world to see.
Six members of parliament tabled a proposal late on Thursday to grant Snowden citizenship after they received a request from him via WikiLeaks, opposition parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir said.
But a majority of parliamentarians voted late on Thursday against allowing the proposal to be put on the agenda, a day before parliament went into summer recess. It does not reconvene until September.
"Snowden has formally requested citizenship. But nothing is now going to happen. We could not even vote on it," Jonsdottir told Reuters.
In a letter dated July 4, posted on Jonsdottir's blog, Snowden wrote that he had been left "de facto-stateless" by his government, which revoked his passport after he fled the country and leaked information about U.S. surveillance operations.
He has sought asylum in a number of countries, but most, including Iceland, say he must be on their soil for his application to be accepted.
His request for citizenship was a different tack, hoping that Iceland would give him a passport, as it has done in at least one similar case in the past.
"I appreciate that Iceland, a small but significant country in the world community, shows such courage and commitment to its higher laws and ideals," he wrote in the letter.
Under Icelandic law, parliament can grant citizenship to foreigners, which can otherwise usually only be gained through naturalization after a period of residence.
Chess master Bobby Fischer was granted Icelandic citizenship by parliament after he got into trouble with the United States over tax evasion and breaking sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992.
After years living abroad, he was detained in Japan, where he applied for and was awarded Icelandic citizenship in 2005. He spent his last years in Iceland before dying in 2008.
Iceland's recently elected center-right government is seen as far less willing to engage in an international dispute with the United States than the previous government, even if it will want to maintain the country's reputation for promoting Internet freedom.
"It is a disappointment that he is facing limited options," WikiLeaks Icelandic spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told Reuters. "I am not optimistic that the new conservative government will take steps of courage and boldness to assist Mr Snowden.