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The European Parliament awarded the 2018 Sacharov Prize for freedom of thought to Oleg Sentsov
Sergei Venyavsky/Getty

European Parliament: the 2018 Sacharov Prize for freedom of thought awarded to Oleg Sentsov

The European Parliament awarded the 2018 Sacharov Prize for freedom of thought to Oleg Sentsov.

Oleg Sentsov (1976) is a Ukrainian film director, detained on 10 May 2014 in Simferopol, Crimea, and sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of plotting terrorist acts against Russian "de facto" rule in Crimea. Amnesty International described the court process as "an unfair trial before a military court". Sentsov was on hunger strike from mid-May until 6 October, when he ended it because of the threat of being force-fed.

On 14 June, 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Russia, notably referring to the case of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov, and demanding that the Russian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula.
His conviction has become a powerful symbol of the fate of the approximately 70 Ukrainian citizens illegally arrested and convicted to long prison sentences by the Russian occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula after its annexation.

Announcing this year's laureate, the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani said: “Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the film maker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world. By awarding him the Sacharov Prize, the European Parliament is expressing its solidarity with him and his cause. We ask that he be released immediately. His struggle reminds us that it is our duty to defend human rights everywhere in the world and in all circumstances”.

The annual Sacharov Prize for freedom of thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sacharov, has been established in 1988 by the European Parliament to support human rights. The prize is awarded to individuals and organizations 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. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the prize.