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Sentsov was not in the Parliament to collect the award in person, because he remains in prison in Siberia… .”

Sakharov Prize ceremony: “Oleg Sentsov is a fighter by nature” EU affairs
 
The 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to Ukrainian filmmaker and writer Oleg Sentsov during a ceremony at the Parliament in Strasbourg on 12 December.


President Antonio Tajani (middle) presents the award to Oleg Sentsov’s cousin Natalya Kaplan and his lawyer Dmitriy Dinze

Sentsov was not in the Parliament to collect the award in person, because he remains in prison in Siberia, serving a 20-year sentence for “plotting acts of terrorism” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea.

His cousin Natalya Kaplan and lawyer Dmitriy Dinze represented him during the ceremony in Strasbourg.

Awarding the prize, Parliament President Antonio Tajani said: “Oleg Sentsov was nominated for his peaceful protest against the illegal occupation of his native Crimea.

Also for his courage, determination and his convictions in support of human dignity, democracy, the rule of law and human rights; these are the values on which our Union is built, even more after the terrible attack of yesterday, values that this Parliament cherishes, upholds and promotes.”

“Sentsov’s hunger strike and courageous public stance made him a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” he added. Noting that the award comes against a backdrop of serious tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Tajani called for a de-escalation of the situation and reiterated support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The President called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and the Crimean peninsula as well as other imprisoned laureates: “The Sakharov Prize is not only an award. It is a commitment. And we keep standing close by our laureates.”

Accepting the award, Natalya Kaplan described in a very vivid way Sentsov’s early life, his actions during the annexation of Crimea and the tortures and beating he went through when he was arrested and condemned for things he had never done. “Oleg is a person who cannot give up and just sit quietly,” she said. “He is a fighter by nature.”

Speaking of his hunger strike for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners, she said: “During his 145-day hunger strike not a single political prisoner was released, but this doesn’t mean he lost. Thanks to his act the whole world spoke about Russian repressions: this is a victory.”

She concluded by reading a message from Sentsov himself, which began: “I can’t be present in this room, but you can hear my words. Even if someone else is saying them, words are a person’s main tool and often his only one too, especially when everything else has been taken from him.”

Tajani also welcomed the parents of 2018 Sakharov Prize finalist Nasser Zefzafi who is in prison and representatives of the 11 NGOs saving lives in the Mediterranean, who were also finalists.

Commenting on 30 years of the Sakharov prize, Tajani said: “[The award] has supported individuals and organisations around the world who are fully committed to fight for social justice, often at great personal risk.”

“Five Sakharov laureates were subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize” he added, including Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad who received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Background

On 25 October, Tajani announced that the 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought would be awarded to Oleg Sentsov“. See original and links to additional information here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/eu-affairs/20181210STO21403/sakharov-prize-ceremony-oleg-sentsov-is-a-fighter-by-nature

The European Parliament supports human rights
The respect for human rights is one of the European Union’s fundamental values. Any violation of these rights affects the democratic principles upon which our society is founded, whether they take place within or outside the EU.  The European Parliament fights such violations through legislative action, including election observation, monthly human rights debates in Strasbourg and by enshrining human rights in its external trade agreements.

The European Parliament also supports human rights through the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1988.  The prize is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause.

Oleg Sentsov, 2018 Sakharov Prize laureate

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director and writer, an outspoken opponent of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. On 10 May 2014, he was arrested in Simferopol, Crimea, on charges of plotting acts of terrorism against the Russian ‘de facto’ rule in Crimea.

Born in Simferopol, in 1976, Sentsov studied economics in Kyiv, followed by script writing and directing in Moscow. In 2012, he made his feature film debut, with the prizewinning film Gámer. In 2013, he became an active member of the AutoMaidan movement, which called for freedom, human rights and peace, and helped fuel the EuroMaidan Revolution. Later, during the illegal annexation of Crimea, in 2014, Sentsov organised humanitarian missions for Ukrainian soldiers, providing them with food, medication and assisting in the evacuation of their families. Due to his active role in the protests against the occupation, he postponed the production of his second feature film Rhino.

In May 2014, Sentsov was arrested by the Russian security service (FSB), transported to Russia and put in front of a military court for alleged terrorist activity. He spent a year in detention prior to what Amnesty International described as “an extremely cynical show trial”. Before he was brought before the court, the FSB publicly declared him guilty of terrorism, and Russian authorities unilaterally imposed Russian citizenship upon him, refusing Ukrainian officials access to him. However, Sentsov publicly denounced his Russian citizenship, stating that the only citizenship he possesses is Ukrainian.

Sentsov was accused of leading a terrorist organisation preparing to blow up monuments in Crimea, however no conclusive evidence of his involvement in criminal activities was found. In addition, the prosecution’s key witness publicly retracted his initial confession, acknowledging it was made under torture. Meanwhile, Sentsov has adamantly maintained he is innocent. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail and sent to a high-security prison in Siberia, thousands of kilometres away from his home. In his speech in court on the announcement of his verdict, Sentsov ridiculed the trumped-up process and expressed his hope that people in Russia will no longer be afraid. Sentsov embodies a spirit of resistance that has become an inspiration for people who face oppression.

In May 2018, Sentsov went on a 145-day long hunger strike, asking for the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. He was forced to end his hunger strike in October 2018, under the threat of force-feeding and due to the critical state of his health. Even in prison, Sentsov continues to fight for his convictions and for the freedom of his people.

On 14 June 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution insisting on the immediate and unconditional release of Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia. The former Sakharov Prize laureate, The Russian Human Rights Centre ‘Memorial’, has recognised Sentsov as a political prisoner. Many human rights groups and personalities have called for his release. World film celebrities and Russian filmmakers have also appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on this matter. For now, the calls to free Oleg Sentsov have not been heeded.” http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize/en/home/the-prize.html

The night before the prize was awarded: “Holiday festivities in the ancient city of Strasbourg took a grim turn Tuesday night, as a gunman opened fire on the annual Christmas market and and French soldiers and police.” See: “French Manhunt Continues for Strasbourg Attacker“, Last Updated: December 12, 2018 11:57 AM, by Lisa Bryant https://www.voanews.com/a/french-police-search-for-suspect-in-deadly-strasbourg-shooting-/4697224.html

Coincidence? Or? In 1999: “Batchayev and Krymshakhalov admitted transporting a truckload of explosives to Moscow but said “they have never been in touch with Chechen warlords and did not know Gochiyaev”.[77] They said that someone “who posed as a jihad leader had duped them into the operation” by hiring them to transport his explosives, and they later realised this man was working for the FSB.[77] They claimed that bombings were directed by German Ugryumov who supervised the FSB Alpha and Vympel special forces units at that time” Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_apartment_bombings

Video of EU Freedom of Thought Award Ceremony:

Link: http://youtu.be/4_xZNqagHps