BRUSSELS (AP) — U. S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is among three finalists for the European Union's top human rights prize.

European lawmakers on Monday narrowed down the list of nominees for the prestigious 50,000 euro ($65,000) award to Snowden, Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, and imprisoned dissidents from Belarus.

The pro-environment Greens' caucus said Snowden, who leaked a trove of documents on U. S. surveillance agencies' programs, deserves to win because he "risked his freedom to protect us."

Still, the 16-year-old Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year when coming home from school in Pakistan, enjoys wide backing and is seen as the likely front-runner.

The winner will be announced next week.

The Sakharov prize is considered Europe's top rights award. Previous laureates include Nobel Peace Prize winners Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

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