Edward Snowden
Edward SnowdenReuters

In a special announcement Tuesday night by the European Union parliament, it was revealed that Edward Snowden has been nominated for 2013's Saharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is offered annually to individuals who have aided in the promotion of freedom of thought in the world.  

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, considered Europe’s top human rights award, has been bestowed upon luminaries such as former South African President Nelson Mandela, and Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This year the award could go to Edward J. Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower who leaked top-secret information about the U.S. and the U.K.'s mass surveillance programs to the press.

The European Parliament nominated Snowden for the prize among other candidates including Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was 14 when the Taliban shot her in October but survived to become a potent voice in the struggle for education rights for women; Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and Kremlin critic who is imprisoned in Russia; and Erdem Gunduz, who helped inspire the mass protests against the Turkish government’s perceived authoritarianism this year in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

The nomination of Snowden for the prestigious award is the latest in a series of rebukes from European lawmakers upset with the Obama administration’s foreign policies, including its surveillance program. 

Snowden, who has received temporary asylum in Russia and has been charged in the United States with espionage and theft, has been praised for his courage seen by the leftist and Green party members of the European Parliament who nominated him.

"Snowden deserves to be honored for shedding light on the systematic infringements of civil liberties by U.S. and European secret services,” said the leaders of the Parliament’s Green members, Daniel Cohn-Bendit of France and Rebecca Harms of Germany, in a statement quoted by The New York Times.

“Snowden has risked his freedom to help us protect ours.”

In October they will announce the recipient of the prize and hold an awards ceremony in Strasbourg, France in December. Last year's joint recipients were two convicted Iranians: Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer who represents opposition activists and is now in prison, and Jafar Panahi, a filmmaker who has been released on bail but was banned from making films or leaving the country