Europe

Russia jails Ukraine director Sentsov on terror charges

  • 25 August 2015
  • From the section Europe
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Oleg Sentsov on trial in Rostov-on-Don (21 July) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Oleg Sentsov has been described by the United States as a hostage

A court in Russia has jailed Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov for 20 years for plotting terrorist acts in Crimea.

Sentsov, 39, was arrested in May 2014 during a protest against Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula two months earlier.

He pleaded not guilty and his family say he will appeal. The trial has been condemned by the US, EU and other film directors.

Russia denies accusations that he is a political prisoner.

Another Crimea activist, Alexander Kolchenko, who was being tried with Sentsov and also denies the charges against him, was sentenced to 10 years.

After the verdict was read out, both defendants sang the Ukrainian national anthem in the military court in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the case breached international law, while the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, said the process had been a "farce".

Allegations of torture

Sentsov, best known for his 2011 film Gamer, was accused of setting up a terrorist group. Prosecutors say he was involved in two attempted arson attacks in the city of Simferopol, ordered by extremist Ukrainian group Right Sector.

The Ukrainian government says he is being punished for being a Crimea-based pro-Ukrainian activist.

Image caption Oleg Sentsov's 2011 film Gamer, about a teenage computer enthusiast, was shown at the Rotterdam film festival

The director has rejected the authority of the court - one of two military courts in Russia - and has said he was beaten in jail for 24 hours in an attempt to force a confession.

But investigators refused to open a case on his allegations of torture, suggesting that his bruises were self-inflicted and that he was keen on sado-masochism, his lawyer said.

Petition

Oleg Sentsov is one of a number of Ukrainian figures held by Russia. Military pilot Nadiya Savchenko is also facing trial in southern Russia, accused of killing two people.

Both have been described by the US as Ukrainian hostages held by Russia.

Last week Russia sentenced Estonian security official Eston Kohver to 15 years in prison for spying in a case that sparked a diplomatic row.

The case against Sentsov is primarily based on evidence given by two men who have already been convicted and given seven-year jail terms.

Human rights groups condemned the verdicts, and UK Europe Minister David Lidington said he was "deeply concerned" at the sentencing of Sentsov and Kolchenko.

Meanwhile Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Facebook: "Hang on in there, Oleg. Time will pass, and those who organised this kangaroo court will find themselves in the dock."

A petition calling for Sentsov's release has been signed by top directors including European film-makers Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Agnieszka Holland, and there has been a growing chorus of protest within the Russian film-making community.

He has also attracted support from celebrated Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov, who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin and has openly backed Russia's annexation of Crimea.

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