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European Parliament committee approves Snowden hearing

Agence France-Presse

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The EU Civil Liberties committee voted to hear Snowden in an inter-active video-link from Russia, where he has found temporary asylum.

File photo of Edward Snowden from Agence France-Presse/ WikiLeaks

BRUSSELS, Belgium  A European Parliament committee approved plans on Thursday, January 9, to hear US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose revelations about snooping on EU leaders has sparked uproar against Washington.

Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee voted 36 in favor, 2 against, to hear Snowden in an inter-active video-link from Russia where he has found temporary asylum.

Reports based on Snowden’s leaked files have shown Washington running a global system, backed up by allies such as Britain, to listen in on Internet and telephone systems.

This included revelations that the US National Security Agency had even tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Many members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have demanded Brussels take a hard line with Washington, threatening the suspension of talks on a massive EU-US free trade deal to drive the point home.

Some on the right are suspicious of Snowden, saying he has harmed ties with a key ally, and insisted he be heard in an inter-active session facing questions, rather than make a simple statement.

Snowden “has endangered lives,” said MEP Timothy Kirkhope, spokesman for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

“The committee was clear that if Snowden is not willing to appear in an inter-active session then the evidence must not go ahead,” Kirkhope said, adding that he doubted if the hearing would “ever happen.”

Parliamentary sources said Snowden and his lawyers have already received an invitation but so far have not given a response.

If Snowden agrees, the hearing could take place end February and would be open to all MEPs, said Veronique Matthieu Houillon, a French lawmaker with the European Peoples’ Party. –

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