More than 1,000 supporters across Europe sign letter to free Oleg Sentsov (UPDATE)
- The Ukrainian filmmaker has today been sentenced to 20 years by a military court in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don
UPDATE: On 25 August, Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Russian military court in Rostov-on-Don. His co-defendant, activist Alexander Kolchenko, got a sentence of ten years. Instead of answering judge Sergei Mikhailyuk's question as to whether they understood the verdict, the two started singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Last Wednesday (19 August), on the last day of the trial, Sentsov read his final statement, saying: “Treason and betrayal can sometimes start with simple cowardice. Cowardice is, as the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov told us in The Master and Margarita, ‘the greatest sin'. And I agree with him. Cowardice is the biggest, the worst sin on Earth. And betrayal – because it is such a particular form of cowardice. A great betrayal sometimes begins with a little cowardice."
In the face of a verdict of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov expected for tomorrow – prosecution has called for 23 years – supporters, institutional and individual, have gathered well over 1,000 signatures for the EFA letter to the President of Russia and Russian authorities asking for his immediate release.
The filmmaker was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in his house in Simferopol on 11 May 2014 and imprisoned in Russia for over a year before his trial even began. Although the key witness has retracted his testimony as given "under duress", the trial based on the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed "crimes of a terrorist nature" has continued, prosecution has now called for a 23-year sentence, and the verdict is expected for tomorrow, 25 August.
On an initiative by the EFA Board, a letter has been sent to President Putin and the Russian authorities asking for Oleg Sentsov's immediate release. With the support by national film academies and individual calls by the Polish Film Academy, the German Film Academy, the Austrian and the Czech Film Academies as well as the Russian Filmmakers Union Kinosoyuz, well over 1,000 supporters, most of them from the world of filmmaking, but also members of the public who feel passionately about the case, have added their names to this letter and are calling for Sentsov's release.
EFA deputy chairman Mike Downey said, "Whatever the result of tomorrow's sentencing is, the European Film Academy will never give up the fight to free Oleg Sentsov. It's encouraging that since Oleg's speech about cowardice and betrayal in court last week, more and more Russian film directors are signing petitions for his defence and coming out in support of him, for which we are most grateful. In particular, Andrei Zvyagintsev, who has read all 516 pages of the evidence, and we share his belief that having studied all available materials of the case and we cannot see any direct evidence of guilt on the part of Oleg Sentsov."
The whole list is here.