LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - Indian-born British author Salman Rushdie is the winner of this year's PEN/Pinter Prize in recognition of his support for freedom of speech and generous help to other writers, the prize judges said on Friday.
The prize, awarded by the British branch of the worldwide writers' association, is named for the late playwright Harold Pinter, who was an ardent advocate of human rights and a fighter for social causes.
Rushdie, 67, is probably best known for his 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" which outraged the Islamic world and forced him to take special security precautions after death threats were made against him, including a fatwa issued by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
He also won the prestigious Booker Prize for his second novel, "Midnight's Children", and has been a prolific novelist, essayist and public speaker.
"This prize is English PEN's way of thanking Salman Rushdie not just for his books and his many years of speaking out for freedom of expression, but also for his countless private acts of kindness," novelist and journalist Maureen Freely, chair of judges, said in a statement.
"When he sees writers unjustly vilified, prosecuted, or forced into exile, he takes a personal interest. I think he would be the first to say that it was Harold Pinter who set the example in this regard: the engaged writer never sleeps."
Rushdie, in the statement, is quoted as saying: "It's very moving to receive an award named after my friend Harold Pinter, whose literary genius was matched by his passion for social justice, and to follow in the distinguished footsteps of the previous recipients, Tony Harrison, Hanif Kureishi, David Hare, Carol Ann Duffy and Tom Stoppard."
The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in London on Oct 9 at the British Library. (Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)