ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Well-known European filmmakers Wim Wenders, Stephen Daldry, Mike Leigh and Agnieszka Holland, among others, have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to order the release of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who could face up to 23 years on charges of "plotting terrorist acts" in Crimea.
Sentsov stood accused of having committed "crimes of a terrorist nature," as his trial resumed in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia.
"Having observed the trial and especially the fact that the key witness for the prosecution has retracted his testimony as 'given under pressure and duress,' we are shocked that the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed 'crimes of a terrorist nature' is still being upheld," the letter partly reads, reported Variety.
These directors/producers signed open letter to Putin calling for end of Sentsov case. Silence frm Russian film world pic.twitter.com/NYXV3RPpv1— Shaun Walker (@shaunwalker7) August 19, 2015
Sentsov appeared in a military court weeks ago with Alexander Kolchecko, a Ukrainian activist. They were arrested in Crimea last May after attending a pro Ukrainian rally. He has been detained by Russian authorities ever since, Ukraine Today reported. Sentsov has maintained his claim that the case against him is completely "fabricated by Russian authorities."
The prosecutors say he was involved in two attempted arson attacks in the city of Simferopol. The case against the filmmaker is primarily based on evidence by two men who have already been convicted.
In late July, Hennady Afanasyev, a key witness against Sentsov, retracted his testimony in court proceedings. He told the court he was coerced into give false testimony. Sentsov has maintained his non-guilty plea since the North Caucasus military court hearings began in mid-July.
The letter was initiated by the board of the European Film Academy and is supported by the Polish Film Academy.
The Ukrainian government says that at least ten of its citizens are political prisoners in Russia. Apart from Sentsov, Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian helicopter pilot captured during fighting in eastern Ukraine, has also been transferred to Russian custody. Charges against her carry a 25-year prison term.