The European parliament moved to support National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden on Thursday, voting 285-281 for EU member states “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.”
The ruling, while non-binding, is widely seen as a show of popular support for Snowden, who is wanted by the US on espionage charges after leaking a mass of secret NSA documents. The 31 year-old has been granted asylum in Russia, where he holds a three-year residency that allows him to travel abroad.
Snowden welcomed the move on Twitter late Thursday night, stating, "this is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward."
Despite the ruling, each EU member state still maintains an extradition agreement with the US, making the prospect of Snowden leaving Russia on a permanent basis unlikely in the near future.
The US upheld those agreements in remarks to the New York Times late Thursday night.
“Our position has not changed,” Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington, stated. “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.”