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France 'should give Snowden asylum'
A group of influential French public figures has urged President Francois Hollande and his government to grant asylum to US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The 50 signatories of a new petition, including a former prime minister, argue France has a "special obligation" towards Mr Snowden because its constitution guarantees asylum to those persecuted for their actions.
The petition on the Change.org website was organised by the weekly L'Express magazine and signatories include former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard, Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Rony Brauman, the former president of Medecins sans Frontieres and Christophe Deloire, director general of Reporters Sans Frontieres.
Mr Snowden, who leaked documents regarding America's National Security Agency and Britain's GCHQ listening post, is in Russia, having been given asylum by Vladimir Putin and any move to allow him to live across the Channel would probably strain relations with France's UK and US allies.
Christophe Barbier, chief editor of L'Express, said: "We need to help him escape the logical but unfair punishment he's expected to get in the US, but also to get out of the hospitality Putin offered him with hidden agendas.
"Because France has always shown its independence from the United States and Russia, because France is the homeland of freedom of expression, France should welcome Snowden, offer him political asylum, and later, perhaps, a new nationality."
According to Change.org the petition states: "We intellectuals, philosophers, researchers, essayists, journalists and - above all - engaged citizens, ask Francois Hollande, President of the Republic, Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, and Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, act as without delay to host Edward Snowden as a political refugee.
"France, land of human rights and freedom of the press, has a special obligation in respect of Edward Snowden as its constitution states that 'Every man persecuted for his action freedom is the right of asylum in the territories of the republic'."
Mr Snowden leaked top-secret documents to a number of locations, including the UK's Guardian newspaper, revealing details concerning the NSA and GCHQ.
Critics have claimed Mr Snowden's disclosures have aided terrorists, while others believe the move could be illegal.
Earlier this year, MI5 director general Andrew Parker warned in a speech that revealing details about the work of GCHQ was a ''gift to terrorists'', while Sir John Sawers, head of MI6, said terrorists were ''rubbing their hands with glee''.
But Mr Snowden's supporters believe the leaks exposed an abuse of powers among the security and intelligence services in the UK and US and had contributed to a much-needed debate on their oversight and role.