In a 285 to 281 vote, the European Parliament has called on member states to drop criminal charges against Edward Snowden, saying he is an "international human rights defender" who must be protected as a whistleblower. In a statement, the Parliament asked that countries "grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties."
Hearing reports EU just voted 285-281, overcoming huge pressure, to cancel all charges against me and prevent extradition. Game-changer.— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 29, 2015
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
A very similar version of the vote was reportedly set to be tried last year, but ultimately could not be agreed on.
The vote came alongside a broader resolution passed by the Parliament, which gauged the responses from EU member countries following the Snowden leaks. According to the Parliament, not enough progress has been made to curb mass surveillance in the wake of the leaks.
The organization also cited concerns about new laws that have increased "surveillance capabilities of intelligence bodies." France passed a controversial surveillance law in April, and the UK and Netherlands were also named by the Parliament. The resolution also praised a ruling from earlier this month that invalidated Europe's controversial data-sharing agreement with the United States.
The vote on Snowden is not binding for member countries and, indeed, reception to the idea of European asylum for Snowden, who is currently exiled in Moscow, has been mixed. But despite the slim approval of the vote, it's a show of official support for the former NSA contractor.