SARAJEVO, Bosnia — A group of prominent European filmmakers, including Wim Wenders, Stephen Daldry, Agnieszka Holland and Mike Leigh, has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order the release of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, whose trial resumes in Russia today.
Sentsov, who is accused of having committed “crimes of a terrorist nature,” faces up to 20 years in prison. The prosecution’s main witness has retracted his statement, but the trial continues nonetheless.
The letter states that the filmmakers have been “deeply worried” since Sentsov was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, in his house in Simferopol, Crimea, on May 11, 2014. It adds: “Having observed the trial and especially the fact that the key witness for the prosecution has retracted his testimony as ‘given under pressure and duress,’ we are shocked that the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed ‘crimes of a terrorist nature’ is still being upheld.”
The letter, which was initiated by the board of the European Film Academy, and is supported by the Polish Film Academy, is also signed by Aki Kaurismaki, Ken Loach, Bertrand Tavernier, Volker Schloendorff and Andrzej Wajda, among others.
“The entire Oleg Sentsov year of imprisonment without trial, and the trial itself is a total fiasco, a cross between a series of trumped up charges and Stalin’s ‘show trials’ of the 1930s,” the European Film Academy’s deputy chairman, Mike Downey, told Variety. “Witnesses have been coerced, evidence tampered with and the entire case for the prosecution is built on a house of cards. If justice is truly done this week in Rostov-on-Don, Sentsov will walk free. The likelihood of this happening is getting more and more remote given the legal system in Russia. The European Film Academy will never stop campaigning for Oleg and we will work tirelessly until he gets the justice he deserves.”
THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER:
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – President of Russia
Sergey Evgenyevich Naryshkin – Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation
Alexander Wassiljewitsch Bortnikow – Director of the FSB
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Kolokoltsev – Russian Minister of Internal Affairs
Yuriy Yakovlevich Chaika – Prosecutor General
From the moment when we learned that the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in his house in Simferopol on 11 May 2014, we have been deeply worried. We have followed the proceedings from a trial repeatedly being postponed until over one year later when it finally opened in Rostov-on-Don.
Having observed the trial and especially the fact that the key witness for the prosecution has retracted his testimony as “given under pressure and duress,” we are shocked that the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed “crimes of a terrorist nature” is still being upheld.
In the light of these circumstances, we respectfully call upon you:
• to ensure the safety of Oleg Sentsov;
• to have the charges dropped due to insufficient evidence;
• to have the detained released immediately and unconditionally;
• to ensure complete rehabilitation of the detained;
• to instigate a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the apparently arbitrary detention by the FSB and Oleg Sentsov’s statements about torture in order to bring all those responsible to justice.
Stephen Daldry, director, U.K.
Mike Downey, producer, U.K.
Agnieszka Holland, director, Poland
Dariusz Jablonski, producer, Poland
Aki Kaurismaki, director, Finland
Mike Leigh, director, U.K.
Ken Loach, director, U.K.
Wojciech Marczewski, director, Poland
Daniel Olbrychski, actor, Poland
Volker Schloendorff, director, Germany
Bela Tarr, director, Hungary
Bertrand Tavernier, director, France
Andrzej Wajda, director, Poland
Wim Wenders, director, Germany
Krzysztof Zanussi, director, Poland