The news cycle over the past few weeks has been riddled with the tragic and constantly evolving story of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and never came out. Other activists of free speech and expression, such as film maker Oleg Sentsov and journalist Jumpei Yasuda, were granted freedom after imprisonment.
Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in jail by the Russian government in 2014. Russia suspected Sentsov of plotting terror attacks on Russian monuments and political interest facilities in the Ukraine.
During the 2014 Crimean Crisis, Sentsov helped deliver supplies to Ukrainian soldiers who were unable to leave their bases. Russia detained Sentsov for three weeks without announcing charges. Sentsov described being “tortured and humiliated.”
Last week, Sentsov was awarded the 30th Annual European Parliament’s Prize for Freedom of Thought. The award was created to recognize individuals who champion human rights. The formal ceremony is expected to be held on December 12th in Strasbourg, France.
European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani had called for the immediate release of Sentsov in 2014. Tajani mentioned Sentsov’s hunger strike earlier this year and shed light on the risk to Sentsov’s health.
Today it’s high time to remind the world about the issue of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and occupied Crimea. Sakharov Prize winner Oleg Sentsov has become a well-known symbol of the Kremlin’s political persecutions against citizens of Ukraine. https://t.co/tyucmTY5hl pic.twitter.com/00Az9MSYRL
— Kyiv Post (@KyivPost) October 29, 2018
Jumpei Yasuda, a freelance journalist from Japan, was just released by Syrian militants after being held for over three years. He was taken hostage in 2015 after crossing the border from Turkey into Syria while he was on his way to report on the civil war.
Last week, Yasuda made a video in the Turkish province of Hatay stating that he was safe.
The group responsible for capturing Yasuda, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, reportedly demanded $10 million in ransom from the Japanese government. The group was declared a terrorist group by the State Department in 2012 and affiliated itself with Al Qaeda in 2013. Qatar reportedly paid for Yasuda’s release.
Yasuda was held hostage earlier in 2004, after he and four other Japanese citizens went to Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion. Yasuda and his fellow hostages were not welcomed with warmth upon return to Japan. Instead, people came to the airport holding signs reading, “You got what you deserve!.” Each of the freed hostages were also billed $6,000 by the Japanese government for their airfares. Upon his most recent release, he was still met with hostility.
Yasuda arrived Thursday evening at Tokyo’s Narita airport. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the release as “good news.”
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) October 24, 2018