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Imprisoned Ukrainian Director Sentsov Short-Listed For Sakharov Prize


Ukrainian film director Oleh Sentsov

BRUSSELS -- Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian film director imprisoned in Russia after opposing Moscow's takeover of his native Crimea, has been placed on a short list of candidates for the 2018 Sakharov Prize.

Sentsov, who said last week that he was forced to end a 145-day hunger strike in a prison in northern Russia, was selected as one of three finalists in a closed October 9 vote by members of the European Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees.

The other short-listed candidates are Moroccan activist Nasser Zefzafi and 11 NGOs that work to save the lives of migrants traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

The winner will be chosen on October 25 in Strasbourg, and the award ceremony is scheduled for December 12.

The prize, named in honor of the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, was established by the European Parliament in 1988 to honor individuals and organizations who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Sentsov, a Crimean native who opposed Russia's 2014 takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula, is serving a 20-year prison term after being convicted of terrorism in a trial that he, human rights groups, and Western governments contend was politically motivated.

He is currently imprisoned in the Far Northern Yamalo-Nenets region of Russia where he started a hunger strike on May 14, demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainians that he considers political prisoners in Russia.

He ended his hunger strike on October 6, saying he had to do so to avoid being force-fed by the prison authorities.

With reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak
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