Sentsov's cousin accepts Sakharov Prize in Strasbourg in his name
Natalia Kaplan, a cousin of political prisoner Oleh Sentsov, has accepted in his name in Strasbourg the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which her cousin was awarded by the European Parliament.
The award ceremony took place as part of the European Parliament's session on December 12.
"I cannot be present in this hall but you can hear my words even if they are voiced by someone else... Andrei Sakharov is, without doubt, a man to be looked up to, and to stand somewhere in his vicinity is a very big honor for me. He managed to raise the bar of erudition and talent, intellectuality and manners, and dignity and humanism very high. However, I do hope that I will still be able, will manage to do something to feel that I have earned this prize," Sentsov said in his address to the European Parliament that was read aloud by his cousin at the award ceremony.
The ceremony was also attended by Sentsov's lawyer Dmitry Dinze.
The prize was handed over to Sentsov's cousin by the European Parliament's president Antonio Tajani.
We are giving our debt of honor to Oleh Sentsov—the Ukrainian film director who has been imprisoned for political reasons. This year he is awarded with the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. He took part in a peaceful protest against the illegitimate annexation of Crimea, his native region. The prize goes to him for his boldness, his determination to fight for the rights, dignity, democracy and a lawful state, the European Parliament's president said at the award ceremony.
Tajani said that these are the principles the European Union has operated on.
The award ceremony was preceded by a demonstration of a small video about Sentsov. Several members of the European Parliament set up stands with posters calling to release the Ukrainian film director.
An empty chair was put in the hall, on which the diploma confirming the awarding of the Andrei Sakharov Prize to Sentsov was placed.
Sentsov was detained in Russia-occupied Crimea in 2014 and charged with the creation of a terrorist group in the territory of the peninsula. A court in Rostov-on-Don in Russia in August 2015 sentenced him to 20 years in a maximum security penal colony. The film director has refuted all the charges.
On May 14, 2018, Sentsov went on a huger strike and demanded that all the Ukrainians that have been illegitimately kept in prisons in Russia be released. On October 6, he announced that he decided to end his hunger strike for the fear of forceful feeding.
Sentsov was nominated for the Sakharov Prize by the European People's Party in the European Parliament.
The Sakharov Prize has been awarded by the European Parliament since 1988 to people and organizations that defend human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The first Sakharov Prize was awarded to the former president of the Republic of South Africa Nelson Mandela and, posthumously, to a Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko. In 2017, the Sakharov Prize was awarded to the democratic opposition in Venezuela.
In accordance with the tradition, the Andrei Sakharov Prize is awarded at the ultimate plenary session of the European Parliament in a given year. Usually, it happens during the period close to the Human Rights Day, which is celebrated on December 10. In 2018, this date has been marked with the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.