Ukrainian Director Oleg Sentsov Denied Bail by Russian Court

Charged with terrorism, Sentsov will remain in jail until trial on Oct. 11

Oleg Sentsov

Despite calls for his release by Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh,  imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (“Gamer”) has been denied bail at a Russian court hearing. He will now remain in prison until his trial Oct. 11.

Sentsov was arrested by Russian FSB security forces in his house in Simferopol in the Crimea on May 11 and taken to Moscow. On May 30, the FSB announced that Sentsov – who had actively opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, delivering food supplies to Ukrainian army troops trapped in their barracks – would be charged with planning to bomb two World War II monuments and setting fire to other buildings.

Sentsov made a speech in court from behind iron bars this week. (http://tvrain.ru/articles/ja_ne_krepostnoj_chtoby_s_zemlej_menja_peredavat_rech_ukrainskogo_rezhissera_olega_sentsova_v_sude-371693/)

In a summary by U.K. producer Mike Downey, who is spearheading the European Film Academy’s campaign for his release, Sentsov said he was not a member of the “Right Sector” – a Ukrainian paramilitary group – or other extremist organizsations. He also denied planning attacks on monuments in the Crimea, or indeed anywhere else, arguing that being accused of plotting an attack on a monument dedicated to victory in World War II was an insult to him.

Denying all charges, he said that evidence given against him by supposed comrades had been extracted under torture and after the promise of shorter prison sentences, and that he had been tortured as well, and was in danger of being incriminated in indecent behavior or thrown out of a prison window to his death.

Describing himself as a Ukrainian citizen, Sentsov argued he was not a slave that could be “transferred from one land owner to another together with the land.”

Sentsov concluded saying he had no illusions as far as Russia’s legal and judiciary system was concerned and was fully prepared to hear the verdict of 20 years imprisonment, even though he considered himself completely innocent and had never taken part in any activities of which was accused.

“We continue to support the case of Oleg Sentsov,” said Downey, also EFA deputy chair. “Further to questions being raised at governmental level in the British Parliament about the case, we are actively making similar lobbying activity across Europe, and alongside the Empty Chair campaign, as well as setting up a fund whereby our membership can support financially Sentsov’s family.”

The hearing also turned down the request by Sentsov’s defense for his imprisonment to be substituted by house arrest pending trail.

In a parallel move, Sentsov’s lawyer Yonko Grozev has filed a request with Strasbourg’s European Court of Human Rights. Grozev asked the Court to grant an interim measure indicating to the Russian government that it should allow Sentsov’s lawyers full access to documentation that would allow them to file a complaint with the Court regarding Stentsov’s arrest, arguing it violated the European Convention of Human Rights.

In his list of relevant facts submitted to the Court, Grozev claimed that, after Sentsov was arrested on May 10, in an effort to make him confess an FSB officer had repeatedly kicked Sentsov, hit him, clubbed his backs, buttocks and head, suffocated him with a plastic bag and threatened to rape him with a club.

On June 10, in a move initiated by the board of the European Film Academy, Almodovar, Loach, Leigh, Aki Kaurismaki, Stephen Daldry, Bertrand Tavernier and Wim Wenders, among other European filmmakers, called on Russian president Vladimir Putin to charge Sentsov with a “recognizable offense or be released.” They also asked for the Russian government to “instigate a full, prompt and impartial investigation into the apparently arbitrary detention by the FSB.”