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The European Film Academy has started a fund-raising campaign in its bid to free jailed Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian director sentenced this week to 20 years hard labor by a Russian military court.
The court found Sentsov guilty of terrorism, charges his lawyers and supporters say were trumped up by Moscow to silence a director critical of Russia’s military actions in Crimea.
The EFA has been calling for Sentsov’s release since he was arrested by Russian authorities in Ukraine last year. But the cause is “now gaining momentum,” EFA deputy chair Mike Downey told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It is incredible that so many voices from Russia have responded and their ranks are growing,” said Downey. “Now is the time to boost the fund we have set up to support Oleg’s children and support his legal fees. Should the appeal next week fail, we will be in for the long haul and every penny will count. The European Film Academy and film makers all over the world will not give up the protest until Oleg is freed and re-united with his family.”
Supporters can make their donations to an account via a link on the EFA’s website.
The EFA appeal coincides with the launch by Amnesty International of a petition calling for Sentsov’s freedom.
The human rights organization says the trial was “unfair” and that no one was injured in the alleged ‘terrorist’ acts. It calls for people to write to the Russian prosecutor general urging that he overturn Sentsov’s conviction and that of alleged co-conspirator Alexander Kolchenko, who was sentenced to 10 years.
The sentences have drawn a chorus of international criticism.
Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, condemned the “Russian farce of a ‘legal process’ and the U.S. State Department said the verdict was a “clear miscarriage of justice.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU considered the case a “breach of international law” and called for Sentsov’s immediate release.
In recent days a number of leading figures from the Russian film industry have called for Sentsov’s freedom.
On Wednesday, Alexander Sokurov — whose series of films about the abuse of human power included portraits of Hitler, Lenin and Japanese emperor Hirohito — said he did “not believe a word” of the charges against Senstov and his sentencing made him feel “ashamed to be Russian.”
The EFA funds appeal follows more than a year of campaigning for Sentsov’s freedom since he was seized at his home in Crimea by Russian security agents and flown to Moscow. Sentsov claims he was beaten and tortured but refused to confess to charges of plotting to blow up a statue of Lenin and setting fire to offices of a Russian political party in Simferopol.
His conviction was based on confessions of two co-accused who told the court they had also been tortured. Prosecutors alleged that bruising Sentsov said was caused by beatings was the result of his own “sadomasochistic sexual games.”
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