The European Parliament voted this afternoon to drop all criminal charges against NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, and to offer him asylum and protection from rendition.
Snowden, who was elected rector of the University of Glasgow in 2014, is wanted in the United States for crimes pertaining to espionage.
MEPs voted 285 to 281 to recognise the NSA whistleblower’s status as a “human rights defender” and asked member states of the European Union to grant him protection from extradition to the United States.
In the resolution, MEPs said “too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights” following Snowden’s revelations of electronic mass surveillance. He resigned as an NSA contractor after exposing the extent of the surveillance programmes. He fled to Hong Kong and then Russia in 2013.
Snowden tweeted: “Hearing reports EU just voted 285-281, overcoming huge pressure, to cancel all charges against me and prevent extradition. Game-changer”.
He later added: “This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward”.
The European Commission is also being urged to ensure that all data transfers to the US are subject to an “effective level of protection”, and to investigate concerns over surveillance laws in several EU countries.