Sunday

29th May 2016

Snowden among nominees for EU prize

  • German activists demanding asylum for Edward Snowden (Photo: Mike Herbst)

US whistleblower Edward Snowden is among the seven nominees for the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought.

Nominated by Greens and leftists in the European Parliament, Snowden is a former contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency who fled to Russia after revealing a mass surveillance scheme run by the US government.

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The 29-year old, charged in the US for espionage and theft, has become an irritant in US-Russian relations and a cause celebre for internet freedom activists in Europe, who demanded, in vain, that EU governments grant him asylum.

Snowden's disclosures - which also put British, French and German secret services in a bad light for co-operating with the US online snooping scheme - continue to trickle out in the British Guardian newspaper and Der Spiegel magazine.

Snowden lives under guard at a secret location in Russia but is able to travel incognito, his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Monday.

“No one is being told his place of residence. This is done on his request because we understand that the level of danger is quite high,” Kucherena told RT television in an interview.

Apart from Snowden, EU political groups also nominated Malala Yousafzai - a 11-year old from Pakistan who started a blog denouncing Taliban abuses against girls who want to go to school. She survived an assassination attempt in October 2012 and is since celebrated as a symbol for women's struggle for education and self-determination.

Two Ethiopian journalists - Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega - have also been nominated after having been jailed for writing columns criticising their government.

Another nomination, filed by Polish MEPs, groups three Belarusian dissidents - Ales Bialatski, Eduard Lobau and Mykola Statkevich - representing all political prisoners who are in jail after they protested against election fraud by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Forty-one MEPs also nominated Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has now served 10 years in a Siberian jail after refusing to back President Vladimir Putin and criticising Russia's corrupt political system.

The first man to stand in the Turkish Taksim Square, Erdem Gunduz, prompting mass-scale protests earlier this year was nominated as well, along with CNN's Freedom Project - a global campaign against the slave trade, human trafficking and forced child labour.

A shortlist of three finalists will be decided on 30 September by MEPs dealing with foreign affairs and human rights.

The winner will then be chosen on 10 October in Strasbourg and invited to the award ceremony on 20 November.

The Sakharov prize was named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1975. The prize has been awarded yearly since 1988 to people or organisations who fight for human rights and civil liberties.

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