The European Parliament has voted to grant amnesty to Edward Snowden, the former US government contractor who revealed the depth of the country's surveillance programs back in 2013. By a vote of 285 to 281, the European Parliament is recommending that the 28 states of the EU "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".
It's important to note that this isn't a legally binding vote; Snowden can't just walk into any country in the EU and expect to necessarily go free. It does open the door to EU countries to grant him amnesty and also puts pressure on other nations that still want to prosecute him (like the US) to drop their charges. But all of the EU countries have extradition treaties with the US, and, as pointed out by The Daily Dot, defying that treaty and not honoring that agreement would be a bold and shocking move.
Still, Snowden himself is taking heart in the vote, saying on Twitter that "This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward." He also called it a "game changer" in another tweet.
This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward. pic.twitter.com/fBs5H32wyD
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 29, 2015
Unsurprisingly, the US government responded by saying its position hasn't changed. "Our position has not changed," NSC spokesman Ned Price told The Daily Dot via email. "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."
There's no way to know what Snowden's next move is, but it seems likely he's not going to take the risk of venturing into the EU for now. He has been living in Russia under a three-year asylum agreement with the country since fleeing the US in 2013.
[Image credit: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images]