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 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.
“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“Any testimony gained through torture and other ill-treatment must be thrown out, the ‘terrorism’ charges must be withdrawn, and Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko should either be released or face a fair trial in a civilian court.”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.