MEPs: Four imprisoned Sakharov Prize laureates must be freed

Oleg Sentsov appearing in a Russian court in 2015.
Oleg Sentsov appearing in a Russian court in 2015. Source: AFP/Scanpix

In a letter sent to EU leaders, members of the European Parliament, including MEP Urmas Paet (Reform/ALDE), are demanding that the EU make efforts to ensure the release of four imprisoned laureates of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

"This Wednesday, we recognized Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov at the Sakharov Prize ceremony in the European Parliament," Paet said. "Unfortunately, he was not able to be with us in Strasbourg and accept the prize as he is imprisoned in a Siberian penal colony in Russia."

In 2015, Russia sentenced Sentsov to 20 years in prison on charges of conspiracy against the activity of Russia in Crimea. According to Paet, Sentsov is a political prisoner.

"Oleg Sentsov should be a free man, not be imprisoned in a Siberian penal colony," Paet said, naming the three other imprisoned Sakharov Prize laureates as well — Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, who is under house arrest, and Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.

"Arab Spring activist Razan Zaitouneh also went missing in Syria," he added.

In the joint letter, the MEPs emphasise that the EU must resolutely demand that Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia and Iran release the four Sakharov Prize laureates.

"The EU could also be a leader in ensuring that pressure for the release of these four, but also other politicial prisoners, increases on a wider international level as well," Paet said.

The MEPs sent their joint letter to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Council President Donald Tusk and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

Since 1988, the European Parliament has awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to an individual or an organisation that has made a significant contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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