Marine Le Pen of the National Front is vocally opposed to letting foreigners into France. But she says her country should welcome 'courageous' American whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In the last election in France, the leader of the far right rose in polls on an anti-immigration platform, which included promises to restrict the number of refugees that the country allows into the country.
Now she is calling for France to roll out the welcome mat: for Edward Snowden, the American defense contractor who leaked classified documents concerning US government surveillance and is being both hailed a hero or condemned as a traitor.
In a statement on her party’s webpage, Ms. Le Pen appeals to French President François Hollande to, “in the name of France, give asylum to this young man, who had the courage… to reveal to humanity a very grave threat to democracy and public liberties.”
Ms. Le Pen landed in third place in 2012 elections, on an anti-immigration platform that promised to resist the “Islamization” of France.
She provoked controversy in 2011 when she visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, where some 8,500 migrants had landed since the revolution in Tunisia. On that visit, she was quoted as telling two immigrants at a detention center: "I have a lot of compassion for you but Europe can't welcome you," she said. "We don't have the financial means."
But it apparently does have such means for Mr. Snowden, who leaked information about National Security Agency surveillance because, he said, he didn’t want to live in a world in which no email or phone conversation is private. "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under," he told the Guardian newspaper.
Snowden sought refuge in Hong Kong, apparently to avoid extradition to the US if it requested it. He has since, reportedly, checked out of his hotel there, and it is unclear whether he is still in Hong Kong or attempted to leave for another country where he could seek asylum.
While Ms. Le Pen’s offer may seem out of line with her general stance on asylum, the choice of France perhaps is not. As a Slate article points out in an “explainer” about where Snowden would have his best shot at avoiding extradition to the US:
Consider France. Although France does have an extradition treaty with the United States, it also has a history of reluctance to send people into the US criminal justice system. France has refused to extradite filmmaker Roman Polanski, a French citizen, back to the United States, where he faces charges for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl. More recently, a French court decided not to extradite Michael and Linda Mastro, who were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering, unless American authorities would promise not to imprison them. If France can be a sanctuary for them, perhaps there would be some hope for a whistle-blower (and, according to some, a human rights hero) such as Snowden.