Oleg Sentsov - 2018, Ukraine

© Sergei Venyavsky/Getty Images

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film director and writer and an outspoken opponent of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Born in Simferopol, in 1976, Sentsov studied economics in Kyiv, followed by script writing and directing in Moscow. In 2012, he made his feature film debut, with the prizewinning film Gámer. In 2013, he became an active member of the AutoMaidan movement, which called for freedom and human rights and helped fuel the EuroMaidan Revolution.

In 2014, during the illegal annexation of Crimea, Sentsov organised humanitarian help for the blocked Ukrainian soldiers, providing them with food, medication and assistance to evacuate their families. On 10 May 2014, he was arrested in Simferopol, Crimea, on charges of plotting acts of terrorism against the Russian 'de facto' rule in Crimea. The Russian security service transported him to Russia. He spent a year in detention prior to appearing in front of a military court, which proceeded to sentence him to 20 years in jail in what Amnesty International described as "an extremely cynical show trial". Russian authorities treated him as a Russian citizen even though he never had a Russian passport and declared he only had Ukrainian citizenship.

Sentsov was accused of leading a terrorist organisation with plans to blow up monuments in Crimea. He adamantly maintained his innocence and no conclusive evidence of his involvement in criminal activities was presented. The prosecution's key witness retracted his initial confession and revealed he made it under torture. In his speech in court, Sentsov ridiculed the trumped-up process and expressed his hope that people in Russia will no longer be afraid.

After his sentencing, Sentsov was sent to a high-security penal colony in Siberia, north of the Arctic Circle, thousands of kilometres away from his home. In prison Sentsov continued to fight for his convictions. In May 2018, he went on a 145-day long hunger strike, demanding the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia. He was forced to end it under the threat of force-feeding and due to the critical state of his health.

On 14 June 2018, the European Parliament adopted a resolution insisting on the immediate and unconditional release of Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia. The international community, human rights groups, Russian filmmakers, renowned film directors and celebrity actors supported Sentsov and called for his release. The Russian Human Rights Centre 'Memorial' recognised him as a political prisoner.

In September 2019, Sentsov was released from jail and returned to Ukraine. His release was part of an agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the exchange of groups of prisoners from each side. In a statement, EP President David Sassoli expressed his relief and joy at the news of Sentsov's release. He saluted him as a courageous man who had resisted injustice with dignity.

In November 2019, two months after his release, Sentsov accepted the Prize at a ceremony in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He received the prize ''not as a personal honour, but as a prize to all Ukrainian political prisoners that have ever been in Russian prisons."

Democratic Opposition in Venezuela - 2017, Venezuela

Nadia Murad and Lamya Haji Bashar - 2016, Iraq

Raif Badawi - 2015, Saudi Arabia

Denis Mukwege - 2014, Democratic Republic of Congo

Malala Yousafzai - 2013, Pakistan

Nasrin Sotoudeh - 2012, Iran

Jafar Panahi - 2012, Iran

Mohamed Bouazizi - 2011, "Arab Spring", Tunisia

Ali Ferzat - 2011, "Arab Spring", Syria

Asmaa Mahfouz - 2011, "Arab Spring", Egypt

Ahmed El Senussi - 2011, "Arab Spring", Libya

Razan Zaitouneh - 2011, "Arab Spring", Syria

Guillermo Fariñas - 2010, Cuba

Other laureates