Edward Snowden gains EU support as MEPs vote in favour of whistleblower

30 Oct 2015

A sticker on a bin in Berlin urging asylum for whistleblower Edward Snowden

The European Parliament has voted to drop all criminal charges against rogue NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The vote, a narrow 285 to 281 margin, recognises Snowden’s status as a “human rights defender”.

Snowden is the whistleblower who lifted the lid on the extent of snooping being carried out by the NSA and its allies around the world, from logging non-US citizens’ social media activities to bugging the mobile phones of top EU politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Snowden first went on the run to China and then wound up in Moscow where he has been for the last two years. He is wanted in the US under several Espionage Act charges.

Edward Snowden hailed as international human rights defender

Snowden hailed the vote as “extraordinary” and a “game changer.”

He tweeted: “This is not a blow against the US government but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward.”

The resolution, which isn’t binding, is in effect a request by the European Parliament that all 28 member states reject attempts by the US to arrest and prosecute Snowden.

While Snowden has been promised due process, under the Espionage Act of 1917 he would not be allowed to argue in his defence that his disclosure was for the public good.

The resolution requests that member States grant Snowden protection “and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties in recognition of his status as a whistleblower and international human rights defender.”

In an email to the Daily Dot, Snowden’s lawyer in Berlin, Wolfgang Kaleck, said: “It’s an overdue step and we urge the member states to act now to implement the resolution.”

Edward Snowden image via Shutterstock

Updated 8.30am, 30 October 2015: The article headline and intro was amended to clarify that no asylum has been granted

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years