Before revealing the secret program, Snowden fled to Hong Kong, which has an extradition treaty with the United States. However, Simon N.M. Young, a professor director at the University of Hong Kong, outlined a lengthy process Snowden could exploit to stay out of the hands of U.S. officials, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
Hong Kong's chief executive, C.Y. Leung, must approve or reject any formal request from the United States for Snowden's arrest, Young said. If he rejected the arrest warrant, Leung could say the request violates Hong Kong law. The warrant can't be honored if the territory doesn't have a law similar to the American law that Snowden is accused of breaching.
If Snowden were arrested, a magistrate would determine whether there is enough evidence to hold him for trial. If there is insufficient evidence, or if extraditing him would violate Hong Kong law, Snowden could be freed.
Snowden could appeal if the magistrate ruled he could be sent back to the United States. He could file a petition asking for asylum, claiming he faced political persecution or punishment that could constitute torture or inhuman treatment, Young said.
Snowden faces charges of theft of government property, violation of the Espionage Act, unauthorized communication of national defense information and providing classified intelligence to an unauthorized person.
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