The European Union's legislature has called for member states to protect US surveillance whistle-blower Edward Snowden from possible extradition.

The European Parliament voted in a narrow 285-281 vote at a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, a non-binding resolution that calls for all criminal charges against Snowden to be dropped.

The legislature described Snowden in a statement as an "international human rights defender".

Snowden, 32, is a former US National Security Agency contractor who leaked confidential documents to the media to expose purported mass surveillance of civilians.

The EU MPs urged the block's 28 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."

Snowden hailed the parliament's decision as "extraordinary" in a post on Twitter. Snowden has been living in Russia since he was granted temporary asylum there in 2013.

This month, the EU's top court invalidated a data-sharing scheme with the US on the grounds that it did not fully protect the rights of EU citizens.

The scheme, Safe Harbor, enabled US companies such as Facebook to store the personal information of EU citizens on servers in the US.

The EU parliament on Thursday said it welcomed the ruling by the European Court of Justice.


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"This ruling has confirmed the long-standing position of parliament regarding the lack of an adequate level of protection under this instrument," the legislature said.

It urged the European Commission, the EU's executive, to "immediately take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the US are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU."

Source: Agencies