The campaign to free Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov from detention in Russia has been taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Oleg Sentsov

According to documents obtained by ScreenDaily, Sofia-based lawyer Yonko Grozev has been authorised by Sentsov to file a complaint on his behalf at the Strasbourg-based institution raising “issues regarding his arrest, pre-trial detention and the ill treatment to which he was subjected, shortly after his arrest”.

“With this letter I would also like to request the Court to grant an Interim Measure under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, regarding access to the case file in the case against Mr. Oleg Sentsov,” Grozev wrote.

He added that since Sentsov’s detention in the Lefortovo prison near Moscow, his lawyers “have been ordered by the investigation authorities not to divulge any information about the proceedings against Mr. Sentsov. They were also prohibited from receiving any copies of documents related to his pre-trial detention and face criminal charges in case they violate those orders.”

Court hearing

Grozev’s letter of petition to the ECHR was sent as Sentsov’s case came before a Moscow court at the beginning of the week.

In spite of Sentsov’s not guilty plea, the appeal from Sentsov’s defence and the request to release him on bail or, at least, to substitute detention for house arrest, the judge ruled that he should remain in prison until October 11 when the trial is due to take place.

Russia’s only opposition cable news channel TV Rain subsequently broadcast Sentsov speaking for more than three minutes in his own defense from a cage in court and refuting the charges levelled against him.

He declared that he had “never been a member of Right Sector and never organised any terrorist groups and terrorist acts in the territory of Crimea.”

Apart from referring to instances of torture and blackmail against him during his detention, Sentsov said that he wished to protest against the attempt to rid him of his Ukrainian citizenship and did “not recognise the annexing of Crimea and the hostile seizure by the Russian Federation”.

“I am not a slave and cannot be transferred from one land owner to the other together with the land,” the film director continued, adding that he would not sign any declaration assuming Russian and giving up Ukrainian citizenship.

At the same time, he said that he did not have “any illusions” about the Russian legal and judicial system and “prepared” to hear the verdict of 20 years imprisonment, even though he considers himself completely innocent.

UK/Europe support

UK Conservative MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, raised Sentsov’s case during a debate on Ukraine and Russia in the House of Commons last week.

In his response, the Minister for Europe, David Lidington, said that he “will look into it as a matter of urgency and ensure that we are making appropriate representations [to the Russian Government]”.

After the debate, Whittingdale informed the European Film Academy deputy chairman, UK producer Mike Downey, that he will follow up this question with a letter to the Minister

EFA has since set up a fund for the Sentsov’s family and legal maintenance support.

Odessa festival support

Sentsov will also on the minds of the organisers of this year’s Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF) whose fifth edition opens tomorrow (July 11).

Sentsov’s 2011 feature debut Gaamer, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the third edition of the Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF) in 2012, will be shown in special screening on July 15 in support of raising funds for the campaign to free the filmmaker.

New sidebar

Current changes and upheavals in civil societies - including recent events in Ukraine – will be the focus of a special new documentary sidebar, entitled Way To Freedom, which has been introduced by OIFF (July 11-19) for the first time this year.

¨The selection features films describing real events taking place in different countries, mostly countries that have much in common with Ukraine,¨ OIFF’s executive producer Julia Sinkevych explained .¨Films from Egypt, Romania, the Czech Republic and Russia show the people’s desire to live in democratic and liberal societies with a high respect of human rights.¨

The programme includes the Ukrainian premiere of Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary Maidan, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Romanian Vlad Petri’s Where Are You, Bucharest?, the omnibus film Black Book of Maidan, and Gogol’s Wives’ Pussy vs. Putin.

The 2014 programme also features a retrospective of five ‘forgotten masterpieces’ of Ukrainian cinema, ranging from Georgiy Stabovy’s 1927 psychological drama Two Days to Villen Novak’s dramatic love triangle Wild Love from 1993

According to OIFF programme director Alik Shpilyuk, the selected films represent ¨all stages of Ukrainian film industry development and, also, both Ukrainian film capitals: Odessa and Kiev. The five films also reflect the work of almost all film studios existing in Ukraine at that time.¨ (ends)