PEN has invited Snowden to receive the award in the Norwegian capital Oslo this November, but his ability to attend now depends on a court ruling as to whether the former CIA whistleblower should be extradited to the USA.
Snowden — currently residing in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum — is wanted under the US Espionage Act, which would almost certainly result in decades behind bars were he to be extradited to, and captured by, US authorities.
@Snowden In English: "If Snowden should come to Norway, should Norway be able to extradite him to the USA?" 70 % says no.— Christofr Tønnessen (@cristeatweet) 21 April 2016
Snowden and Norwegian PEN however, argue that any extradition by Norway, would in this case be unlawful, given the political nature of the alleged crimes.
"It's a well-established principle under Norwegian extradition law, and also under international law, that extradition cannot take place when a person is charged with alleged offenses of a political character. So we are talking about a fundamental and common European standard, that you can't extradite a person charged with political offenses," Halvard Helle — the attorney in charge of the lawsuit — told Sputnik.
On this basis, Helle said that the lawsuit has a "firm and sound legal basis" which — if successful — would ensure that the Norwegian Government could not take steps to extradite Mr Snowden.
"Our role is to create the legal conditions for that, the conditions that would allow Mr Snowden to come here safely to receive the Ossietzky Prize. If we obtain a verdict in favor of Mr Snowden, the Government would be obliged to adhere to that."
Edward Snowden is a former CIA employee who achieved international notoriety after leaking large quantities of classified information from the US National Security Agency (NSA). He was subsequently charged with two counts of violating the Espionage Act, as well as theft of Government property.
Norwegian PEN said that this year's Ossietzky Prize will be awarded to Snowden "to pay respect to the unique role he has undertaken as a whistle blower," adding: "the award will expose the need for an international debate on surveillance regarding the boundaries set by international and national law."
As yet, the petition to the Norwegian Government is in its early stages, so the timescale is still uncertain. But despite fears that it may take months to reach a conclusion, Mr Snowden's lawyers remain optimistic.