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Hollywood stars plead for hunger striker Sentsov


Venice (AFP)

Hollywood stars have pleaded with Russia not to let hunger striking Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov die in prison.

Actress Naomi Watts, Oscar-winning actor and director Christoph Waltz, together with Guillermo del Toro begged the Kremlin late Friday to release the filmmaker, who has been refusing food in a remote jail in northern Siberia for 118 days.

The stars and the rest of the jury at the Venice film festival, which ends Saturday, said Sentsov had lost 30 kilos (66 pounds) since he began his protest on May 14.

The 42-year-old was jailed for 20 years for terrorism and arms trafficking after a trial denounced as "Stalinist" by Amnesty International.

The Venice jury, led by Del Toro -- who won two Oscars this year including best film for "The Shape of Water" -- said that Sentsov had been "imprisoned and tortured... after a trial that clearly did not respect the rights of the defence."

They urged the Kremlin to release him immediately "so that Oleg is not left to die".

It was the second call to free Sentsov at the festival, the launchpad for the Oscars race.

Last week top Russian documentary maker Victor Kossakovsky made an emotional appeal for Sentsov's life.

"We must not forget him. You must write, write, write," he told reporters. "We have to tell him we remember him."

The Kremlin releasing him would "not (be) political but a human act", he added.

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