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Polish film-makers call on Russia to release Ukrainian director

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Polish film-makers call on Russia to release Ukrainian director

Polish film-makers have called on Russia to release Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who is awaiting trial having been charged with committing 'crimes of a terrorist nature.'

The protest letter has been signed by members of the European Film Academy, chaired by director Agnieszka Holland, together with the Polish Film Academy, and it has been addressed to Russian authorities including President Vladimir Putin and Prosecutor General Yuriy Yakovlevich Chaika.

“Having observed the trial and especially the fact that the key witness for the prosecution has retracted his testimony as 'given under pressure and duress', we are shocked that the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed 'crimes of a terrorist nature' is still being upheld,” the appeal stressed.

The signatories called on Russia to drop the charges and fully rehabilitate Senstov.

Senstov was originally arrested at his house in Simferopol, Crimea, on 11 May 2014 by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).

He was held for over a year before the trial began.

Sentsov had supported the Kiev protests in Independence Square that brought down former president Viktor Yanukovych's regime, and he later opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.

The prosecutor in the case accused the director of preparing terrorist attacks in Crimea, storing weapons, ammunition and explosives.
Although the chief witness for the prosecution withdrew his testimony during the trial, the prosecution is still calling for a sentence of 23 years.

Besides Agnieszka Holland, signatories of the protest letter included European Film Academy members such as British director Ken Loach and German film-maker Wim Wenders.

Polish signatories included such internationally acclaimed filmmakers as Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, this year's foreign movie Academy Award winner Pawel Pawlikowski, Ryszard Bugajski and Małgorzata Szumowska.

The court judgement is due to be read out on 25 August.

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