Snowden was nominated for the Sakharov Prize by the Green group in the European Parliament for what it said was his "enormous service" to human rights and European citizens when he disclosed secret US surveillance programmes.

Snowden, who is in hiding in Russia, said in a statement, read out to Parliament that he was grateful lawmakers were "taking up the challenge of mass surveillance".

"The surveillance of whole populations, rather than individuals, threatens to be the greatest human rights challenge of our time," he said.

Among the other nominees for the prize, to be announced on October 10, is Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for demanding education for girls.

The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought is given by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

One of the recipients of 2012 prize, Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, was released from jail in September 2013 in what was seen as part of a move by a new government to present a less hardline stance on dissenters.


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