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 Charges against Sentsov and Kolchenko should be dropped – Amnesty International

The terrorism-related charges against film director Oleh Sentsov and ecologist Oleksandr Kolchenko, who are on trial in a military court in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, are excessive and should be dropped.

This was announced by Amnesty International, Censor.NET reports citing Interfax Ukraine.

"There are serious concerns that the two men have been targeted by the Russian authorities solely because they were opposing Russian intervention to Crimea and further annexation of the peninsula," press secretary of the Ukrainian office of Amnesty International Bohdan Ovcharuk, who attended the court sessions, said.

Oleh Sentsov and Oleksandr Kolchenko are Ukrainian citizens and residents of Crimea who opposed its Russian annexation.

"The charges against them are based on allegations of two arson attacks, which resulted in little damage to private property of the Russian Community of Crimea and the office of the United Russia party, which at the time belonged to Viktor Yanukovych's the Party of Regions", the message reads.

Read also: Russian court sentences Crimean activist from Ukraine to seven years

The charges against the two men were based solely on 'confession' of Oleksii Chernii and Hennadii Afanasiev, who refused to give testimony in court on July 30 and 31, 2015.

"The two defendants should either face proper charges, or be released. All allegations of torture and other ill-treatment received from the defendants, their lawyers and witnesses should be investigated promptly, effectively and impartially. Physical and mental safety of both the defendants and the witnesses must be provided," Ovcharuk said.

Due to the refusal of two key witnesses, Oleksii Chernii and Hennadii Afanasiev, to testify against the defendants, Amnesty International expressed serious concern regarding the fairness of the consideration and the safety of the defendants and the witnesses.

Chirniy appeared in court on Thursday. He refused to give testimony in court, citing Article 51 of Russia's Constitution that allows him to not testify against himself, yet stated that he did not retract his earlier 'confession' and testimony. At the same time, Hennadii Afanasiev stated that he gave testimony earlier under duress. Earlier Afanasiev's lawyer expressed concern that he had to testify under duress, after which he was removed from the case.

"The trial takes place in a military court in Rostov-on-Don in a small courtroom, which cannot accommodate all who attend. Journalists, representatives of the diplomatic community and the representative of Amnesty International were forced to alternate, to be able to watch the proceedings of the Court," Amnesty International added.

 
 
 
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