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EU Parliament calls for protection of whistleblower Edward Snowden from extradition

The European Parliament has called for Edward Snowden to be protected from extradition. The American surveillance whistle-blower was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 after exposing mass surveillance by the US.

During at a plenary session in the French city of Strasbourg on Thursday, the European Parliament narrowly voted 285 to 281 in favor of a non-binding resolution, which calls for all criminal charges against Snowden to be dropped.

The resolution described the former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor as an "international human rights defender.

The 32-year-old

responded to the news shortly after on Twitter,

describing the vote as "extraordinary."

"This is not a blow against the US government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forwards," Snowden tweeted.

Charged with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents about the US spying on its citizens, world leaders and companies, Snowden has lived in exile in Russia since June 2013. The charges could land him in prison for up to 30 years.

In September, however, Snowden received a freedom of speech prize from a Norwegian literary foundation for his revelations.

Earlier in October, Snowden praised the European Court of Justice following its

decision to invalidate the 15-year-old "Safe Harbor"

pact.

The accord, signed in 2000 between Brussels and Washington, enabled companies and international networks to easily transfer personal data to the United States without having to seek prior approval, a potentially lengthy and costly process.

ksb/jil (AFP, dpa)

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