President Trump faced added pressure Saturday to pardon former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden on the heels of Attorney General William P. Barr announcing his opposition.
Marcel Kolaja, a vice president of the European Parliament, released a letter signed by more than two dozen colleagues urging Mr. Trump to grant Mr. Snowden a presidential pardon.
“We must not persecute those who put public interest above their personal well-being and security,” said Mr. Kolaja, a Czech politician and member of the nation’s Pirate Party.
Mr. Barr, the head of the Department of Justice, revealed in an interview published the previous day that he is “vehemently opposed” to pardoning the admitted leaker, meanwhile.
“He was a traitor and the information he provided our adversaries greatly hurt the safety of the American people,” Mr. Barr said about Mr. Snowden, The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Snowden, 37, leaked classified information to the media in 2013 about the U.S. National Security Agency and its vast domestic and international surveillance capabilities.
He was overseas when the Justice Department charged him that summer with violating the U.S. Espionage Act and theft of government property, and he has not returned home since.
Seven years later, Mr. Trump just recently told reporters he would “look at” Mr. Snowden’s case and possibly consider allowing him to return home without risk of prosecution.
Mr. Kolaja subsequently led 25 fellow members of the European Parliament in signing the letter expressing their support for Mr. Trump potentially pardoning Mr. Snowden.
“This case has underscored the vital role whistleblowers play in safeguarding fundamental rights and preserving our democratic principles. Our common goal of building an accountable and transparent society is violated every time we persecute those who put public interest far above their personal well-being and security,” the parliamentarians wrote.
“Therefore, learning about your intention to re-investigate the case of Edward Snowden, we want to express the full support for granting him presidential pardon,” they added.
The co-signers of the letter include two other vice presidents of the European Parliament, and Mr. Kolaja said it includes the signatures of people spanning four political groups.
Mr. Snowden reacted to the letter shortly after it was posted Saturday on Twitter by Mr. Kolaja. “Wow,” he tweeted. He did not return a message seeking additional comment.
Presently a resident of Russia, Mr. Snowden faces a maximum sentence of decades in federal prison if put on trial in the U.S. and convicted of all counts he currently faces.
Mr. Trump previously called Mr. Snowden a “traitor” and a “spy who should be executed.”