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article imageRussia prosecutors seek 23 years jail for Ukraine filmmaker

By AFP     Aug 19, 2015 in World

Russian prosecutors on Wednesday demanded that Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov be jailed for 23 years on terror charges, in a trial decried by the West.

Sentsov and another Ukrainian from Crimea, Alexander Kolchenko, who have been held since May 2014, are accused of torching a pro-Kremlin party office and wanting to blow up a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Crimea's main city Simferopol.

Prosecutors also asked the court to hand a 12-year sentence to Kolchenko, a pro-Kiev activist in Crimea who opposed the peninsula's annexation by Moscow last year.

Supporters of the two men, who are being tried as Russians despite never applying for Russian citizenship, say the case against them has been fabricated, and both the European Union and the United States have called for their release.

Sporting a t-shirt with a Ukrainian folk design, Sentsov delivered a final statement Wednesday condemning Moscow's rule from the courtroom cage of a military tribunal in the southern city of Rostov.

"I have been in your country for a year where I watch your wonderful television," he told the court.

"Your propaganda is very good, but there are also people like you who understand very well that there are no 'fascists' in Ukraine, that Crimea was taken illegally and that your troops are in Donbas (region of eastern Ukraine)."

The judge said he expects to deliver a verdict by August 25.

Acclaimed filmmakers from across the globe have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing concern over the prosecution of Sentsov, an up-and-coming director.

In the latest appeal by the European Film Academy on Tuesday, 15 filmmakers, including Britain's Ken Loach and Germany's Wim Wenders, said they were "deeply worried" by the proceedings.

"We are shocked that the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed 'crimes of a terrorist nature' is still being upheld," letter to Putin said.

Defence lawyers say witnesses have been tortured to produce testimony implicating Sentsov and Kolchenko in activities involving Ukrainian far-right organisation Right Sector, which is banned in Russia.

Two witnesses against Sentsov and Kolchenko have already been sentenced to lengthy terms in connection with the case after refusing to testify in court.

Amnesty International last month said there were "serious concerns regarding the two men's rights to a fair trial" due to excessive charges and allegations of torture.

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