EU Politicians Tell Member States to Protect Snowden as ‘Human Rights Defender’

Edward Snowden

Members of the European Parliament are urging European Union member states to protect Edward Snowden, the ex-government contractor who faces criminal charges for stealing and leaking classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents, as an "international human rights defender."

The parliament, one of the legislative arms of the European Union, vote privately Thursday to call on 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."

According to a European Parliament news release, the EU politicians decided on the measure in a 285-281 vote.

The United States has extradition treaties with all European countries. A decision by a particular European nation not to extradite Snowden to the U.S. would violate the treaty between the two countries.

Snowden fled the U.S. for Russia after leaking classified documents to media outlets such as the Guardian in 2013. The former government contractor is charged with stealing about 1.7 million NSA documents and leaking some of them to news outlets.

Snowden, who recently joined Twitter, celebrated the vote on social media.

"This is not a blow against the U.S. government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward," he tweeted Thursday.