A group of European lawmakers has called on the US government (PDF) to allow the whistleblower Edward Snowden to return to the US from Russia “without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.” A post on the Open Society Foundations blog explains that Snowden faces up to 30 years of imprisonment under the US Espionage Act of 1917, which does not allow a public interest defense to avoid or mitigate any penalties.
The call comes in a resolution by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly is made up of 318 representatives from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe’s members. This is significant, Open Society Foundations says, since it “marks the first time that any inter-governmental body has called on the United States not to prosecute Snowden unless he is afforded the opportunity to raise a public interest defense.”
That request comes at the end of a general resolution entitled “Improving the Protection of Whistleblowers.” The Legal Affairs Committee points out that “[d]isclosures of information related to national security are generally excluded from protection available to whistleblowers.” The resolution seeks to remedy that, and it makes three calls to the Council of Europe’s 47 member states: to enact whistleblower protection laws that also cover those working in national intelligence services, to grant asylum to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation in their home countries, and to draw up a binding legal instrument on whistleblower protection.
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