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Asma Jahangir, Snowden honoured with 'alternative Nobel'

Updated September 24, 2014

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STOCKHOLM: Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir and Edward Snowden are among the winners Wednesday of a Swedish human rights award, sometimes referred to as the “alternative Nobel.”

The 1.5 million kronor ($210,000) cash award was shared by Jahangir, Basil Fernando of the Asian Human Rights Commission and US environmentalist Bill McKibben.

Also read: Herald exclusive: An interview with Asma Jahangir

The former National Security Agency contractor, who was honoured for his disclosures of top secret surveillance programs. split the honorary portion of the 2014 Right Livelihood Award with Alan Rusbridger, editor of British newspaper The Guardian, which has published a series of articles on government surveillance based on documents leaked by Snowden.

Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honours efforts that prize founder Jacob von Uexkull felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

The prize is awarded annually “to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today”, according to the foundation.

As an honorary award winner, Snowden, would not receive the customary 500,000 kronor ($70,000) prize money, but the foundation said it would “fund legal support for him” without disclosing the amount.

Foundation director Ole von Uexkull, the award creator's nephew, said all winners have been invited to the Dec 1 award ceremony in Stockholm, though he added it's unclear whether Snowden can attend.

“We will start discussions with the Swedish government and his lawyers in due course to discuss the potential arrangements for his participation,” von Uexkull told The Associated Press.

Snowden, who has reportedly also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, remains exiled in Russia since leaking top secret NSA documents to journalists last year.

He has been charged under the US Espionage Act and could face up to 30 years in prison.

The announcement had been set for Thursday but it was communicated early after a leak to Swedish broadcaster SVT.

Also, the foundation had been denied access to the Swedish Foreign Ministry's media room, where it has announced the awards since 1995, von Uexkull said.

He said the ministry cited security concerns but added that he believed the decision was linked to the fact that Snowden was among the laureates.

The Foreign Ministry referred questions to Foreign Minister Carl Bildt's spokesman, Erik Zsiga, who didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

The award foundation cited Snowden's “courage and skill” in revealing the extent of government surveillance and praised Rusbridger “for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest. “