BRUSSELS — The European Parliament narrowly adopted a nonbinding but nonetheless forceful resolution on Thursday urging the 28 nations of the European Union to recognize Edward J. Snowden as a “whistle-blower and international human rights defender” and to shield him from prosecution.
On Twitter, Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the American government, called the vote a “game-changer.” But the resolution has no legal force and limited practical effect for Mr. Snowden, who is living in Russia on a three-year residency permit.
Whether to grant Mr. Snowden asylum remains a decision for the individual European governments, and thus far, none have done so.
Still, the resolution was the strongest statement of support seen for Mr. Snowden from the European Parliament. At the same time, the close vote — 285 to 281 — suggested the extent to which some European lawmakers are wary of alienating the United States.
Many European citizens have expressed sympathy for Mr. Snowden and criticism of eavesdropping and wiretapping by the United States and its closest intelligence-sharing allies, which include Britain and Canada.
The resolution calls on European Union members to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.”
In June 2013, shortly after Mr. Snowden’s leaks became public, the United States charged him with theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. By then, Mr. Snowden had flown to Moscow, where he spent weeks in legal limbo before he was granted temporary asylum and, later, a residency permit.
Four Latin American nations have offered Mr. Snowden permanent asylum, but he does not believe he could travel from Russia to those countries without running the risk of arrest, and then extradition to the United States along the way.
The White House, which has used diplomatic efforts to discourage even symbolic resolutions of support for Mr. Snowden, immediately criticized the resolution.
“Our position has not changed,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington. “Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. As such, he should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.”
Source: The New York times, October 29, 2015
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