- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Edward Snowden’s attorneys asked the European Parliament on Monday to consider granting asylum to the former NSA contractor in lieu of letting him risk a potential life sentence in the United States should he be ordered out of Russia.

U.S. and German legal representatives for the American fugitive made the case for asylum before members of the European Union during a hearing in Brussels this week, notwithstanding the Russian government agreeing days earlier to extend his residency permit through 2020.

While the Kremlin’s decision should allow Mr. Snowden to avoid returning to the U.S. for now and with it standing trial for espionage, his attorneys urged the E.U. at Monday’s hearing to assure the NSA leaker has a safe haven once he bids farewell to Moscow following his current stint in the Russian capital.

Mr. Snowden’s Berlin-based attorney, Wolfgang Kaleck, said his client risks being sentenced to 1,000 years in prison if convicted for leaking NSA secrets, including documents that detailed the U.S. government’s domestic and international surveillance operations, and subsequently resulted in law changes at home and abroad.

“It’s against all European standards, what he’s expecting in the U.S.,” Mr. Kaleck told Parliament, according to EurActiv.

“We think the European Union member states have the obligation to support him,” he continued, adding the E.U. should “pay back” Mr. Snowden for revealing spy programs that affected European civilians.

Mr. Snowden, 33, has resided in Russia since June 2013 when his passport was revoked by the U.S. State Department en route from Hong Kong to Havana in connection with his disclosure of documents detailing the operations of the U.S. national security apparatus. He was granted asylum by Russian President Vladimir Putin the following month, and was told last week he can stay another 3 1/2 years.

Spain, Iceland and Germany are all nations that should consider opening their doors to Mr. Snowden, Mr. Kaleck said, as reported by International Business Times.

“People are looking with a lot of optimism towards Iceland right now,” added Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who also spoke at Monday’s hearing.

“We’re not desperate,” Mr. Kaleck added, making note of Moscow’s decision this month to extend Mr. Snowden’s residency permit through 2020.

Nonetheless, Mr. Snowden himself has acknowledged recently the uncertainties surrounding his future, particularly in light of U.S. President Donald Trump having previously called for his execution.

“While I can’t predict what the future looks like, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, I can be comfortable with the way I’ve lived today,” Mr. Snowden told attendees at an event in November 2016 shortly after Mr. Trump was elected.

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