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Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov on Sakharov Prize short list

Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov's 145-day hunger strike generated an international campaign in his support
Russian Federal Penitentiary Service/AFP/File
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Brussels (AFP)

Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Russia's most famous prisoner, is among three finalists for this year's prestigious Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament announced Tuesday.

Also in the running are a group of 11 charities rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and Nasser Zefzafi, head of a Moroccan protest movement who has been in jail since May 2017.

Sentsov, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, is serving a 20-year term over an alleged arson plot in Crimea.

He started a hunger strike on May 14 demanding the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, and his deteriorating health provoked an outcry from the international community.

Sentsov called off the protest after 145 days last Friday to avoid being force-fed.

Like Sentsov, Zefzafi is serving a 20-year sentence, along with three others, convicted of "plotting to undermine the security of the state" in Morocco.

His Al-Hirak al-Shaabi movement, based in northern Morocco's mainly Berber Rif region, was sparked by the death of a fisherman who was crushed in a rubbish truck, apparently while trying to retrieve swordfish seized by authorities.

Hirak is calling for jobs, development and an end to corruption in the North African country.

The third nomination was for 11 humanitarian groups that have been carrying out search and rescue operations to save migrant lives across the Mediterranean since 2015.

The most prominent among them are Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children and SOS Mediterranee.

The Sakharov Prize, set up in 1988 and named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded every year to individuals or organizations that "have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy."

The winner of the 50,000 euro ($58,000) prize will be announced on October 25. Last year's award went to the democratic opposition in Venezuela.

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