International protest over Russia’s Stalinist-era style show trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko
These are just some of the formal statements of outrage over the sentencing by a Russian military court of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years and Oleksandr Kolchenko to 10 years over a fictitious ’terrorist plot’.
Amnesty International: Crimean activists sentenced after ‘fatally flawed’ military trial
Hefty prison sentences of up to two decades handed down by a Russian military court against two Ukrainian activists today are a blatant injustice after a patently unfair trial marred by credible allegations of torture, Amnesty International said.
The military court in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced film director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years and ecologist and anti-fascist activist Aleksandr Kolchenko to 10 years on “terrorism” charges which they deny and claim were politically motivated. The two were accused of arson attacks on pro-Russian groups following Russia’s occupation of Crimea last year.
“This whole trial was designed to send a message. It played into Russia’s propaganda war against Ukraine and was redolent of Stalinist-era show trials of dissidents, ” said Heather McGill, Eurasia Researcher at Amnesty International.
“This trial was fatally flawed and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment have been ignored by the court. Both Oleg Sentsov and one of the main witnesses for the prosecution have alleged that they were tortured.
“Any testimony gained through torture and other ill-treatment must be thrown out, the ‘terrorism’ charges must be withdrawn, and Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko should either be released or face a fair trial in a civilian court.”
International humanitarian law requires that Russia, as the occupying power in Crimea, prosecute any defendants in civilian courts under Ukrainian law.
Human Rights Watch:
A Russian military court has just sentenced a Ukrainian filmmaker from Crimea, Oleg Sentsov, to 20 years in jail for supposedly running a “terrorist organization.” His alleged accomplice, Crimean activist Olexander Kolchenko, received a 10-year term for his role in an alleged “terrorist” attack and participation in a “terrorist organization.”
It’s clear the case against Sentsov lacked foundation and was politically motivated, while the charges of “terrorism” against Kolchenko -- who admitted to a role in an arson attack – are wholly disproportionate. The trial and the conviction of the two men highlight the manipulation of justice that is becoming disturbingly common in Russia today.
The “terrorist organization” that Sentsov allegedly ran carried out two arson attacks in Crimea in April 2014 – one on the offices of the Russian Community in Crimea association, and another at the headquarters of the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party in Simferopol. No one was injured in either attack.
Kolchenko admitted to taking part in the arson attack on the United Russia office but disputed that it was an act of terrorism. Sentsov denied all charges.
When Russia occupied Crimea in spring of 2014, Sentsov spoke out against the occupation and helped to evacuate stranded Ukrainian soldiers from military bases in Crimea. During his trial prosecutors provided no evidence of his personal involvement in the arson attacks, and the charges of him running a terrorist organization were based solely on testimony from two other alleged members of the group. But one of them, Gennady Afanasyev, withdrew his testimony toward the end of Sentsov’s trial, saying it had been extracted under torture. In court, Afanasyev described how Russian security service officials viciously beat him during interrogations, suffocated him with a gas mask, stripped him naked, and threatened him with rape to force him to testify against Sentsov. Nobody has investigated these allegations.
Neither have Russian officials properly investigated Sentsov’s complaints about cruel and degrading treatment in custody. According to media reports, prosecutors incredulously argued that Sentsov’s visible wounds were the result of a long-standing involvement in sadomasochistic sexual practices.
The trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko attracted global attention. Memorial, a leading Russian human rights group, declared Sentsov to be a political prisoner and has demanded his immediate release.
Since the Russian occupation of Crimea, Russian authorities have been quick to silence those who oppose their actions there – be they Crimean Tatars, pro-Ukraine activists, orMoscow-based independent advocates. But this latest case, and the terribly harsh sentences for Sentsov and Kolchenko, are the starkest warning yet to Russia’s critics in Crimea: keep quiet or else.
US State Department: Sentencing of Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko
The United States strongly condemns today’s sentencing in a Russian military court of acclaimed Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko to 20 and 10 years respectively, on groundless allegations of plotting terrorist attacks and other subversive activities in Russian-occupied Crimea.
This is clear miscarriage of justice. Both Ukrainians were taken hostage on Ukrainian territory, transported to and imprisoned in Russia, and had Russian citizenship imposed on them against their wills. They have reported abuses by Russian authorities who also restricted their access to lawyers, family, and others while in jail for more than a year. Mr. Sentsov and Mr. Kolchenko were targeted by authorities because of their opposition to Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.
The United States stands by those who are persecuted for exercising their rights to speak freely and engage in peaceful protest. We again call upon the Russian Federation to implement the commitments it made in signing the Minsk agreements by immediately releasing Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Nadia Savchenko, and all other remaining hostages.
Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini on the sentencing by a Russian court of Ukrainian citizens O. Sentsov and O. Kolchenko
Today the North Caucasus military court in Russia sentenced Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov to twenty years imprisonment on charges of terrorism and his co-defendant Oleksandr Kolchenko to ten years imprisonment.
The EU has consistently followed the case of Mr Sentsov and Mr Kolchenko. Known to oppose the illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia, they were arrested in May 2014 in relation to alleged activities conducted on the peninsula.
Russian courts are not competent to judge acts committed outside the internationally-recognised territory of Russia. The EU considers the case to be in breach of international law and elementary standards of justice. The EU continues to call on the Russian Federation to immediately release Mr Sentsov and Mr Kolchenko and to guarantee their safe return to Ukraine.