Berlin: Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the most extensive US global surveillance operations, was on Wednesday awarded this year`s German "Whistleblower Prize" worth USD 3,900 in absentia.
"Mr Snowden has done a great public service by exposing the massive and unsuspecting monitoring and storage of communication data by US and other western intelligence agencies, which cannot be accepted in democratic societies," Berlin-based whistleblower prize jury said in a statement.
Top secret National Security Agency (NSA) documents leaked by Snowden since the beginning of June "made it possible and unavoidable" intensive investigations to establish whether the operations of domestic and foreign intelligence services have violated the existing rules applicable to them, the jury said.
Snowden took great personal risks in leaking the documents on the operations of the US and other western intelligence agencies, aware of the current criminal prosecution of whistleblowers in security areas, the jury said in its citation.
The whistleblower prize is awarded once in two years to honour persons, who "expose in public interest grave social injustices and dangerous developments for individuals and the society, democracy, peace and environment".
As an insider, Snowden "exposed the massive and unsuspecting surveillance and storage of e-mails, IP addresses as well as telephone and other communication data by US and western intelligence agencies. He fulfilled the criteria to receive the whistleblower prize," the jury said.
Even when it is proved that the espionage operations partly or to a large extent were protected by the law, "Mr Snowden`s whistleblowing certainly helped to expose such a dangerous situation, which cannot be accepted in democratic societies," they said.
The whistleblower prize was instituted in 1999 by the German section of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) and the Association of German Scientists.
German chapter of the global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International joined the prize for the first time this year. Transparency International chairperson Edda Mueller said, "We are indebted to Mr Snowden that his courageous actions have consequences".
International agreements, which infringe upon Germany`s sovereignty must be changed, Mueller said.
The United Kingdom, as a member of the European Union must clarify whether it respects the basic rights of EU citizens, she said.
Mueller called for sufficient protection for whistleblowers in Germany by introducing necessary regulations.
Otto Jaeckel, the chairman of the German section of IALANA demanded that Snowden, who has been staying in the transit area of Moscow`s Sheremetyevo airport since leaving Hong Kong a month ago, must be granted political asylum in this country.
As a nation "worst-affected by the NSA`s extensive espionage activities", Germany has a responsibility to give him refuge, he said.
With his disclosures, Snowden has done a "great service" to Germany and other EU member nations.
Therefore, Germany should give him asylum "out of conviction and gratitude", Jaeckel said.