After being arrested in May 2014 by the Russian Federal Security Service on suspicion of terrorist plotting and entanglement in a Ukrainian paramilitary group, Oleg Sentsov could be sentenced to 23 more years in prison Tuesday.
So in the face of this week’s verdict, which would exile the Ukrainian filmmaker to a high-security penal colony, the European Film Academy has gathered over 1,000 signatures calling for his release from Russia, whose accusations remain shadowy after the retraction of a key witness testimony last month.
Petitioning supporters (listed here) come from all over Europe, including film
academies in Poland, Germany, Austria and Czech Republic, and the Union
of Russian Filmmakers—who aren’t strangers to censorship. Filmmakers on the list include: Stephen Daldry, Mike Leigh, Mike Downey, Agnieszka Holland, Dariusz Jablonski, Aki Kaurismäki, Ken Loach, Wojciech
Marczewski, Béla Tarr, Bertrand
Tavernier, Andrzej Wajda and Wim Wenders.
Sentsov, known for his feature debut “Gaamer,” served a prison sentence in Russia for over a year before going on trial for terrorism in July 2015. According to remarks by European Film Academy deputy and fest juror Mike Downey at the recent Sarajevo Film Festival, Sentsov was “arrested after the annexation of Crimea and subsequent protests, and imprisoned without trial in Lefortovo prison in Moscow, was severely tortured before being charged with terrorism offenses he and his lawyers say are imaginary.”
Sentsov has described being beaten and threatened with rape and murder since his arrest. “When they put a bag on your head, beat you up a bit, and half an hour later, you’re ready to go back on all your beliefs, implicate yourself in whatever they ask, implicate others, just to stop them beating you,” Sentsov reportedly said in court.
As indicated by Downey at Sarajevo, Sentsov is not optimistic about his fate.