A jailed Ukrainian filmmaker who opposed Russian annexation of Crimea won the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought, the EU announced on Thursday.
"Through his courage and determination, by putting his life in danger, the filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has become a symbol of the struggle for the release of political prisoners held in Russia and around the world,” said Antonio Tajani, head of the parliament.
He said, "By awarding him the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament is expressing its solidarity with him and his cause. We ask that he be released immediately."
"His struggle reminds us that it is our duty to defend human rights everywhere in the world and in all circumstances,” Tajani added.
In March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after a controversial referendum, which drew the ire of the international community as Russian soldiers occupied the region during the voting process.
Sentsov was convicted to 20 years in prison by a Russian court on Aug. 25, 2015 for “plotting terrorist acts” against the Russian “de facto” rule in Crimea, according to the parliament’s website.
“He was on hunger strike from mid-May until 6 October, when he ended it because of the threat of being force-fed.”
The award ceremony for the prize, a certificate and €50,000 ($57,000), will be held in France's Strasbourg on Dec. 12.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded each year by the European Parliament.
The finalists shortlisted for this year’s prize were Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of Hirak -- a mass protest movement in the Rif region in Morocco --, and non-governmental organizations protecting human rights and saving migrant lives across the Mediterranean Sea
Last year, the prize was awarded to the democratic opposition in the turbulent South American country Venezuela.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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