PEN Pune Congress: Writers call for the release of jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov

When the 84th PEN International Congress commenced, writers from across the world converged in Pune, India and called for the release of jailed Ukranian filmmaker, Oleg Sentsov, who is on hunger strike for the past 137 days. Sentsov, who is a PEN Main Case, was presented as the symbolic Empty Chair and the film, The Trial: The State of Russia versus Oleg Sentsove, which chronicles the grossly unjust trail against the film director was screened for the international membership, according to a statement issued by PEN.

Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in a labour camp in Siberia, went on hunger strike on 14 May 2018 calling for the release of all Ukrainian nationals currently imprisoned in Russia. He is reportedly in a critical condition.

Best known for his 2011 film Gamer, Oleg Sentsov was arrested four years ago and sentenced to 20 years in prison on 25 August 2015 on spurious terrorism charges after a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. PEN International fears that he was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. PEN International and its Centres around the world have been calling and campaigning for his immediate release.

To mark Sentsov’s 100th day on hunger strike and following reports that he has been denied access to correspondence – including from his own family – PEN International and English PEN, in partnership with Save Oleg Sentsov, Amnesty UK, and the Belarus Free Theatre delivered messages of support from all over the world to the Russian Embassy in London, urging Russian authorities to ensure that Sentsov is allowed to receive them.

Supporters that joined the action included Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Svetlana Alexievitch, Tom Stoppard, Stephen Fry, Ian Rankin, Margaret Atwood and Yann Martel. PEN International urges the Russian authorities to release Oleg Sentsov immediately. The organisation further calls on the Russian authorities to respect his human rights, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment as it pertains to hunger strike, and his right to medical attention. The PEN community will continue to campaign on behalf of Oleg Sentsov until he is free, added the statement.