Snowden up for freedom of thought gong

It was way back in 1988 when the first Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded.

Named after Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, it was established by the European Parliament as a way of honouring individuals (or organisations) who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought.

The first ever winner of this was an inspiring chap called Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist who went on to become President of South Africa.

Other notable people to have been awarded the Sakharov Prize over the years include Salima Ghezali, a journalist and activist of women’s rights, human rights and democracy in Algeria; Xanana Gusmão, a former militant who was the first President of East Timor; and Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations.

There was a little bit of controversy in 2010 when doctor and political dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, received the award. He was the third Cuban to have won it and there were commentators in certain quarters who felt that other countries that deny human rights should be highlighted instead.

As far as controversy goes this was fairly tame, but the Sakharov Prize has courted controversy once more with the nomination of whistleblower and former CIA employee, Edward Snowden.

It was the leaders of the Greens who nominated the man who revealed details of the US Government’s clandestine web and phone surveillance programme to the general public. Explaining the nomination, the Greens said that he had provided an "enormous service" for European citizens and human rights.

So does he deserve such an award? Will he win it? Does anyone even know where he is? He’s certainly ruffled a few feathers in governments around the world. And that surely that can’t be a bad thing.

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