The Liberal and Democrat Group in the European Parliament welcomes today’s decision by the Conference of Presidents to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Ukrainian filmmaker, Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned in Russia for being a pro-Ukrainian activist who peacefully resisted the Russian occupation of Crimea.
ALDE Group leader, Guy Verhofstadt, who supported Sentsov’s candidature during the final vote, said: “Oleg Sentsov’s story is that of more than 65 other Ukrainian citizens jailed by Putin’s regime for purely political reasons, with the goal to silence every citizen of Crimea who would dare to object or criticise Russia’s annexation. Oleg Sentsov was abducted from his country, threatened with torture and jailed in Russia under fabricated charges, with no access to a fair trial. I hope this prize will help Sentsov and all Ukrainians arrested or convicted in Russia on politically-motivated grounds to be free again and able to return to their home country.”
MEP, Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), ALDE Group’s coordinator in the Subcommittee for Human Rights, welcomed today’s decision: “This award goes to a citizen of Ukraine, Oleg Sentsov, whose plight is a reminder of some of the blatant violations of international law and fundamental human rights which take place in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood. It also reminds us that there are people who are ready to sacrifice their lives and do it by peaceful means in order to stand up for their beliefs and freedom. I am therefore particularly proud about today’s decision of the European Parliament. I accept it as a clear commitment of the European Union to continue our political fight until Oleg Sentsov is freed along with the rest of Ukrainian political prisoners illegally jailed in Russian prisons”.
ALDE MEP, Pavel Telička (Independent, Czech Republic), Vice President of the European Parliament responsible for Human Rights and Democracy, added: “Sentencing individuals based on their opinions is unacceptable. Awarding the Sakharov Price to Oleg Sentsov sends a strong signal against his illegal detainment and shows respect for his fight to free his compatriots jailed for political reasons in Russia. We supported his nomination from the outset and are glad to see that Sentsov has been awarded this important prize. “
Oleg Sentsov was arrested on May 10, 2014, by Russian FSB security forces for peacefully protesting against the illegal Russian takeover of Crimea. Prison authorities physically abused him for three weeks, including by suffocation, and threatened him with torture, rape, and murder in an attempt to get him to “confess” to terrorism. The Russian authorities stripped him of his Ukrainian citizenship and put him to trial in a military tribunal in Moscow as a Russian citizen. Though the key prosecution witness stated in court that he testified under torture, Sentsov has been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to twenty years in prison in a penal colony in Labytnangi, a small Siberian town above the Arctic Circle.