BRUSSELS (UPI) — Members of the European Parliament believe fugitive U.S. secrets leaker Edward Snowden should be honored for his freedom of thought, an official said Wednesday.
Christian Engstrom, a member of the Swedish Pirate Party that was one of the groups that nominated Snowden, said Snowden should receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought because of his “heroic” actions in revealing the U.S.’s extensive intelligence-gathering operations, RIA Novosti reported.
The former National Security Agency contractor is “paying a heavy personal price,” Engstrom said in a personal blog. “Governments that dare to offer him asylum are threatened with dire consequences by the U.S. government.”
He noted it was “a painful irony” Snowden had been granted asylum in Russia, “a country with democratic problems and authoritarian tendencies.”
Alexander Sidyakin, a member of the Russian parliament’s lower house, proposed Snowden for the prize in July.
The European United Left/Nordic Green Left also nominated Snowden. “Whistle-blowers cannot be treated like criminals. They must have our protection,” the group said on its website in June.
The Sakharov Prize is given to individuals or organizations for their work in the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Past recipients include former South African president Nelson Mandela, Chinese dissident Hu Jia and Reporters Without Borders.
A monetary award of $66,471 accompanies the prize.
The winner will be named in October.