EU Parliament Votes To Drop Charges Against Snowden

They also encouraged members to block his extradition "in recognition of his status as a whistleblower and human rights defender."

A big win for Edward Snowden came with the narrowest of margins.

By a vote of 285 to 281, Members of European Parliament (MEP) passed a resolution Thursday calling for EU member states to drop criminal charges against the former NSA contractor and protect him from extradition.

“This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward.”

In June of this year, the White House rejected the idea of dropping charges filed against Snowden under the Espionage Act. The former CIA contractor fled the U.S. in 2013 and resides in Moscow.

“The fact is that Mr Snowden committed very serious crimes, and the U.S. government and the Department of Justice believe that he should face them,” Obama administration spokesman Josh Earnest told the Guardian at the time. “That’s why we believe that Mr Snowden should return to the United States, where he will face due process and have the opportunity to make that case in a court of law.”

Snowden faces the possibility of extradition to the U.S. should he enter any of the EU’s 28 member countries. At the time of his departure, Snowden applied for -- and was denied -- asylum in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. The FBI pursued him relentlessly, even notifying Scandinavian countries in advance of their intent to extradite him should he leave Moscow via a connecting flight through any of their countries.

The new EU proposition specifically asks countries to "drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender."

Snowden called the vote a "game-changer" on Twitter, adding, "This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward."

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