Source: Viasna Belarus Human Rights Center in English
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov. Photo: svoboda.org.
PEN America has prepared a letter to US President Donald Trump asking him to “raise the critical issue of the growing number of political prisoners held in Russia” during his discussions with President Vladimir Putin at the summit scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.
“In particular, we ask that you raise the case of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Oleg’s current situation is dire, as he has been on a hunger strike since May 14, 2018. We are deeply concerned that if progress is not made on Oleg’s case very soon, his life will be endangered,” PEN America said in an online petition now open for signing.
The petition has already been signed by more than 5,000 people, including well-known Belarusian writers, including Svetlana Alexievich, Uladzimir Arlou, Alhierd Bacharevic and Liavon Barščeuski. It was also signed by human rights activists Ales Bialiatski, head of the HRC “Viasna”, Andrei Bastunets, chairman of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Tatsiana Niadbai, chair of the Belarusian PEN Center, Tatsiana Reviaka, and others.
Oleg Sentsov was detained in May 2014 in his native Crimea and brought to Moscow on unsubstantiated allegations of terrorism. On August 25, 2015, Oleg was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His trial has been condemned by numerous governments and human rights organizations as politically motivated, likely in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea.
On May 14, Oleg declared an indefinite hunger strike, stating that “the one and only condition for its termination is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners that are currently present on the territory of the Russian Federation.” He has stated he is willing to die to achieve this goal.