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Edward Snowden gets human rights award in Berlin

The trio responsible for breaking last year's NSA spying scandal have been honored for defending human rights. Prominent Germans praised the work of Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras.

Former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden was given the Carl von Ossietzky award in Berlin on Sunday, a medal which honors those who exhibit extraordinary civic courage or commitment to the spread and defense of human rights.

According to website of the International League for Human Rights in Berlin, which has awarded the prize since 1962, Snowden was chosen because of his "momentous decision of conscience ... to put [his] personal freedom on the line" to expose the "abuse of power" exercised by the US and Germany.

Snowden shares the medal with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke his story, along with Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was in Berlin to accept it on the whole trio's behalf. Snowden is living in Russia under temporary asylum and is barred from entering Germany.

Several speeches were given honoring the work of Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras, including one from former federal Interior Minister Gerhart Baum and human rights lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck, who represents Snowden. Baum spoke of how the Snowden had "opened our eyes to the largest intelligence surveillance scandal I know."

On Friday, Kaleck was reported by The Guardian, a British news outlet, as calling on European countries to actively prosecute CIA agents involved in torture who come into their countries, following the release of the CIA torture report.

Snowden, who is held in high esteem in many circles in Germany, also appeared via Skype.

Carl von Ossietzky, determined dissident

The von Ossietzky medal is named after the German Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist who spoke out actively against the Nazi regime. He died as a result of conditions in the concentration camp where he was held, after being convicted of high treason. It was he who exposed Germany's violation of the Treaty of Versailles through its re-militarization under Adolf Hitler.

Former winners of the medal include famous German authors Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass.

es/jr (dpa, epd)

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