MOSCOW, February 14 (RAPSI) - Former congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul launched a petition demanding clemency in the US for fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, whose grant of asylum in Russia is set to expire on July 31 of this year.

Paul’s petition urges: “Edward Snowden shocked the world when he exposed the NSA’s illegal and abusive spying program. Instead of applauding him for his bravery and patriotism, the U.S. government labels Snowden a traitor. Join Ron Paul in demanding that Edward Snowden IS granted clemency.”

Paul ran for president in 1988, 2008, and 2012, and has drawn a considerable following of devotees, according to his biography on the official Ron Paul Channel website.

In a video statement accompanying the petition, Paul adds: “On June 5, 2013, Edward Snowden sacrificed his livelihood, citizenship, and freedom by exposing the disturbing scope of the NSA’s worldwide spying program… Foreign governments are finally standing up to the American empire. Last summer, the Russian government granted Mr. Snowden one year of amnesty, but time is running out.”

Snowden dominated international headlines over the summer after claiming responsibility for having leaked top-secret documents to The Guardian, detailing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) capacity to access the systems of such major US companies as Google, Facebook, and Apple. Google, Facebook, and Apple have all denied having provided direct or backdoor access to their servers.

He fled to Hong Kong prior to publicly identifying himself, and then fled to Russia.

On June 14, a criminal complaint was filed in the US advancing three charges against Snowden, each carrying a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. He has been charged with the theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, according to a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors. Two of the charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

After a prolonged stay in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, he was granted temporary asylum for one year.