September 30, 2013 - 23:47 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is among three finalists for the European Union's top human rights prize, the Associated Press reports.
European lawmakers on Monday, Sept 30, narrowed down the list of nominees for the prestigious 50,000 euro ($65,000) award to Snowden, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, and imprisoned dissidents from Belarus.
The pro-environment Greens' caucus said Snowden, who leaked a trove of documents on U.S. surveillance agencies' programs, deserves to win because he "risked his freedom to protect us."
Still, the 16-year-old Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year when coming home from school in Pakistan, enjoys wide backing and is seen as the likely front-runner.
The winner will be announced next week.
The Sakharov prize is considered Europe's top rights award. Previous laureates include Nobel Peace Prize winners Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.
Snowden, an American computer specialist and a former CIA and NSA employee, intentionally disclosed classified details of several top-secret United States and British government mass surveillance programs to the press.
Based on information Snowden leaked to The Guardian in May 2013 while employed at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the British newspaper published a series of exposes that revealed programs such as the interception of U.S. and European telephone metadata and the PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora Internet surveillance programs. Snowden's release of NSA material was called the most significant leak in U.S. history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.
On June 14, 2013, United States federal prosecutors charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property. Snowden fled the United States prior to the publication of his disclosures, first to Hong Kong (China) and then on to Moscow (Russia), where he was granted political asylum within Russian borders by the government of Russia at the end of July 2013 and where he now resides at an undisclosed location.