EU lawmakers nominate Snowden for Sakharov human rights prize

EU lawmakers nominate Snowden for Sakharov human rights prize
Members of the European Parliament have officially nominated whistleblower and former CIA employee Edward Snowden for the prestigious prize, which celebrates freedom of thought.

Edward Snowden "deserves to be honored for shedding light on the systematic infringements of civil liberties by US and European secret services," leaders of the parliament's Greens group Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Rebecca Harms said in a statement. "Snowden has risked his freedom to help us protect ours."

Snowden, a computer specialist and former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), was the focus of an international manhunt during the summer after he leaked classified files of US government and UK surveillance programs, including spying on their closest allies, to the media.  

He was granted temporary asylum in Russia in late July despite repeated requests for him to be extradited by Washington. 

AFP Photo / Dominique Faget

Snowden was put forward as a candidate by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left faction.

Christian Engstrom from the Swedish Pirate Party, who co-nominated Snowden for the award, said that the whistleblower has paid “a heavy personal price” for his “heroic” actions. 

The prize is named after the Soviet dissident scientist Andrey Sakharov and honors people and organizations for their work in defending human rights and freedom of thought.

The official presentation of all the candidates for the Sakharov Prize will take place on 16 September, next Monday, the winner will be announced in October and the awards ceremony will take place in Strasbourg in December. 

Previous laureates of the Sakharov Prize include Nelson Mandela, Chinese dissident Hu Jia and Reporters without Borders, a French based NGO that fights for freedom of the press. The winner receives a prize of 50,000 euros.  

Andrey Sakharov was a physicist who designed the Soviet Hydrogen Bomb but soon after began to regret what he had done and became a campaigner for the destruction of all nuclear weapons.  He became an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.