23:06 GMT28 February 2021
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    While he has lived in effective exile in Russia since 2013, Edward Snowden has kept a keen eye trained on political events round the world, frequently commenting on current affairs via the media and Twitter. Now, he appears to be interested in the French presidential election.

    Mr. Snowden's comments provoked some surprise on Twitter, particularly from French speaking users, who were perplexed as to why the American whistleblower would take an interest in French national politics.

    He responded, in French, by reminding his followers he lived in Geneva, a French city, for two years.  

    Mr. Snowden's interest in France may run deeper than mere nostalgia. Presidential candidates Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Melenchon have both said they would offer Edward Snowden political asylum if they won the election — and it is reported that Mr. Snowden applied for asylum in France in 2013, before settling in Russia. 

    Moreover, a petition was launched in the summer of 2014 by French public figures calling on President Hollande to grant political refugee status to Mr. Snowden. The document collected over 170,000 signatures.

    However, Manuel Valls, Mr. Hamon's opponent in the left-wing primaries, attacked such proposals, saying the "friendly relationship" between France and the US made them unfeasible. None of the candidates involved commented on Snowden's revelations, which pointed to the creation of a comprehensive US espionage network to spy on European governments, including that of France.

    Mr. Snowden has also previously commented on French politics, again in French. When France adopted a 'state of emergency' in the wake of the January 2016 terror attacks, he said that "giving up a free society due to fears of terrorism is the only way to be outdone by terrorists".

    In January 2017, Snowden also noted François Fillon, widely tipped to win the election, was now facing a corruption investigation.

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    politics, asylum, election, Twitter, Edward Snowden, France, Europe
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