European Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová has called on Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from the Russian prison where he’s been in custody for more than four years.
“I would urge that you reconsider this case, on humanitarian grounds and bearing in mind Russia’s international commitments on human rights, and release Mr. Sentsov,” Jourová wrote in a letter seen by POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook. “Such a gesture would send a strong signal to the world about Russia’s commitment to abide international law and human rights.”
The Ukrainian filmmaker, who was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 20 years in jail on terrorism charges, is a vocal critic of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He has been on hunger strike since May to put pressure on Russian authorities to release 64 Ukrainians he says are also political prisoners.
“Pending the release of Mr. Sentsov, I would urge you to ensure access to him by Ukrainian authorities, including the Ukrainian ombudsperson,” Jourová wrote, also calling for “an independent medical team to ensure appropriate treatment in line with the European Court of Human Rights interim measure of 25 July.”
European lawmakers from the center-right European People’s Party nominated Sentsov for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought this year, saying in a tweet he has been “illegally imprisoned.”