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Tuesday
Aug142018

US-Turkish relations spiraling amid tit-for-tat penalties over detained pastor

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While still nominally allies, the U.S. and Turkey's relationship is continuing to fall apart amid new economic penalties in the continued fight over an American pastor detained in Turkey.

Andrew Brunson has been at the heart of the ongoing fight after the U.S. sanctioned two top Turkish officials for his continued detention, and Turkey's vow to retaliate, even as its currency plummets.

Even though a meeting between National Security Adviser John Bolton and Turkey's U.S. ambassador on Monday yielded no public progress, the White House is now leading the talks with Turkey over Brunson's release and a host of other issues that have dragged down the alliance.

A senior State Department official referred questions to the White House and declined to say whether Brunson's case had to be resolved before there could be progress on other issues.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Turkey's latest salvo Tuesday, saying his country will boycott U.S.-made electronic goods and turn to other manufacturers including South Korea's Samsung or Turkey's Vestel. Doubling down on his standoff with President Donald Trump, Erdogan also called on Turkish companies to produce more of their own goods.

It's unclear how such a boycott would work, and the State Department said it couldn't confirm "that that is actually going to happen," according to spokesperson Heather Nauert.

Erdogan again urged Turks to convert their U.S. dollars into the Turkish currency -- the lira -- to give it a boost as it continues to drop in value. While the decline accelerated last Friday after the Trump administration announced new tariffs on Turkey, the U.S. denied responsibility for Turkey's economic state.

"What is happening in Turkey goes far beyond the United States and the United States' recent policies and impositions of various policies and mechanisms," Nauert said.

There was a clear, sharp drop in the lira's value on Friday after Trump tweeted he was doubling tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, citing a national security threat, and a smaller decline when the U.S. sanctioned Turkey's Interior and Justice Ministers on Aug. 1.

"Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!" Trump added last Friday.

That was a rare Trump understatement, as the two countries face sharp differences on the case of Brunson and other detained Americans, Erdogan's consolidation of power, U.S. support for Kurds in Syria, growing Turkish relations with Russia, Turkey's evasion of U.S. sanctions and more.

The senior State Department official told ABC News that the two countries continue to work on a broad range of issues.

But senior Trump administration officials, in addition to the president, have spent weeks now focusing their demands on the immediate release of Brunson, an American missionary who has served in Turkey for more than two decades.

Brunson was arrested during Erdogan's broad crackdown on political opposition after an attempted coup in July 2016. Charged with espionage and aiding Kurdish militants and a U.S.-based Turkish cleric accused of fomenting that coup attempt, Brunson was imprisoned for nearly two years and moved to house arrest last month.

He and his lawyers have denied those allegations, and the U.S. has said the charges aren't credible. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted, with his next trial date set for October.

The top U.S. diplomat in Turkey, Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey Hovenier, visited Brunson and his wife, Norine, Tuesday, calling on Turkey to resolve his case "without delay and in a fair and transparent manner." The more diplomatic line than Trump's, calling for his "immediate release," was not meant to signal a change in policy, Nauert said Tuesday.

Hovenier also noted that the U.S. is demanding the resolution of several other U.S. citizens' cases, including NASA astronaut Serkan Golge, convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization in February "without credible evidence," according to the State Department, and of three Turkish citizens who work for the U.S. mission and have been detained for months.

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Tuesday
Aug142018

At least 26 dead after cars plunge off collapsed bridge in Italy: Officials

Italian National Police(GENOA, Italy) --  A section of a towering highway bridge collapsed in Italy Tuesday, sending vehicles plunging nearly 300 feet to the ground and killing at least 26 people, officials said.

The collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa occurred around midday during strong storms moving through the area of northwest Italy, according to authorities.

At least 30 vehicles were on the bridge in a port section of the city when the span gave way, Amalia Tedeschi, a firefighter, told the Italian news agency ANSA. Several people were pulled from the rubble alive and taken to a hospital by helicopter, Tedeschi added.

Construction involving a crane was occurring on the bridge at the time of the collapse, but it was too early to pinpoint what caused the span to fail, Italian authorities said.

At least 26 people were killed, including a child, according to the city of Genoa's civil protection office. Another 15 people were injured in the catastrophe, the agency reported in a Twitter post.

All the casualties appeared to have been in vehicles that plummeted from the bridge, Angelo Borelli, head of Italy's civil protection agency, said during a news conference. He added that the bridge fell on two warehouses but no one is believed to have been inside them because they were closed for the summer holiday.

Borelli said 30 to 35 vehicles, including three heavy trucks, were on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte described the collapse as "an immense tragedy" after he toured the disaster site.

"It is shocking to see the twisted metal and the bridge collapsed with victims who were extracted," Conte told RAI state TV after flying over the collapsed bridge and visiting survivors at a hospital.

He said rescue workers managed to save several people who were in cars that fell nearly 150 feet "and are now alive and in the hospital."

Shortly after Conte spoke publicly about the disaster, Genoa's civil protection office raised the death toll, reporting that two more bodies had been extracted from the bridge rubble late Tuesday and that another victim died during surgery.

Several witnesses posted videos of the collapse on social media. In one video, someone can be heard screaming, "Oh, God" and a flash could be seen as the concrete structure crumbled.

Witness Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio that he had been stuck in a traffic jam under the bridge when the collapse occurred.

"Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene. I couldn't believe my eyes," Megna said.

Another witness, Davide Ricci, told reporters at the scene that he was lucky to be alive.

"The debris from the collapse came to within 20 meters [about 20 yards] of my car," said Ricci, who saw the bridge go down while he was driving. "First the central pylon crumbled, then the whole thing came down."

The driver of a box truck slammed on his brakes as the bridge fell apart, stopping just before plummeting off the edge of the broken span, the general manager of the Basko supermarket chain for which he works told reporters.

Hours after the collapse, video showed the truck still perched just feet from where the bridge gave way.

The collapse happened on part of the viaduct on the A10 highway that crosses the Polcevera River, the country's national police, Polizia di Stato, said.

Witnesses said the bridge toppled after it was struck by lightning.

The A10 highway, the main route between northern Italy and France, was closed in both directions as search-and-rescue teams looked for survivors.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said about 200 firefighters were on scene searching for survivors.

The Morandi Bridge, which opened in 1967, is about a half-mile long.

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Tuesday
Aug142018

Search concludes for US Marine reported overboard west of Philippines

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After a five day search that covered approximately 13,000 square nautical miles, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are ending a search and rescue operation for a missing Marine, the Marine Corps said on Tuesday.

The Marine was reported overboard by the USS Essex on the morning of August 9, as the ship was conducting routine operations in the Sulu Sea west of the Philippines.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, U.S. Coast Guard District 14, and Singapore Information Fusion Centre provided additional support to the search and rescue efforts that spanned approximately 13,000 square nautical miles of the Sulu Sea, Mindanao Sea and the Surigao Straight.

A press release from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit on Tuesday said the circumstances surrounding the Marines' disappearance are currently being investigated.

"Only after exhausting every possibility through persistent and thorough search efforts, we have concluded the at-sea search and rescue effort for our Marine," U.S. Navy Capt. Gerald Olin, who led the on-scene search and rescue operation, said in the release. "We appreciate the continued support provided to us from the U.S. Embassy and Philippine Government."

The missing Marine has not yet been identified.

The 844-foot long USS Essex can transport and support a team of more than 2,000 Marines during an assault by air or land. The ship is based out of San Diego, California.

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Tuesday
Aug142018

Suspected terrorist crashes car into cyclists and barrier at British Parliament

ABC News(LONDON) --London Metropolitan Police officials arrested a man who allegedly drove into a group of cyclists and crashed into the barriers outside the British Parliament in Westminster on Tuesday. The incident is being treated as a terrorist incident, authorities said.

"Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident and the investigation is being led by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command," Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said during a news conference.

Authorities are working to identify the driver and establish his motive, Basu said, adding, "He is not currently cooperating.”

Two people, a man and a woman, were taken to the hospital, while a third person was treated at the scene for minor injuries, authorities said. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

"I was getting off the bike and put my foot down, then there was a sound like tires screeching," Geoffrey Woodman, a strategy consultant who witnessed the incident, told the Press Association. "This car turned round to the left and swerved into the wrong lane of traffic and into the bank where all the cyclists wait."

Most of the cyclists managed to jump off their bikes, but a woman was clipped by the hood of the car as it passed, he said.

Video showed the driver being dragged out of his car by a number of police officers. The man, in his late 20s, was driving a silver Ford Fiesta when he crashed into the barriers at 7:37 a.m. local time, police said.

No weapons have been found in the car and no other suspects have been identified, authorities said.

Streets around Parliament Square were blocked off as police vehicles swarmed the area, video posted on social media showed. More than a dozen emergency vehicles were on the scene. Wider cordons have since been removed, while cordons around the immediate crime scene will remain for some time, police said.

The Westminster subway station re-opened after it had been closed earlier, the official Transport for London feed said in a tweet.

President Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting, "Another terrorist attack in London...These animals are crazy and must be dealt with through toughness and strength!"

The threat to the U.K. remains severe, British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

"I would urge the public to remain vigilant -- but also to come together and carry on as normal, just as they did after the sickening attacks in Manchester and London last year," she said. "The twisted aim of the extremists is to use violence and terror to divide us. They will never succeed."

This appears to be the second attack on Westminster in the past 18 months. In March 2017, 52-year-old Khalid Masood, a Muslim convert with a criminal past, crashed his rented car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and later stabbed a police officer outside of the parliament building. Four people died in the attack, including the officer. Masood was shot and killed by police.

Since then, 12 terror plots have been thwarted in the U.K., Andrew Parker, director general of the MI5, the U.K.'s domestic counterintelligence and security agency, said in a speech in Berlin in May.

Parliament was not in session on Tuesday. The House of Commons and House of Lords are out of session from July 24 to Sept. 4.



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Monday
Aug132018

US soldier in Afghanistan dies from wounds in roadside blast

U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Army soldier has died from wounds sustained when a roadside bomb detonated near him while he was on patrol in southern Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced Monday. Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion is the fifth American military service member to be killed in Afghanistan this year.

Transfiguracion, 36, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, sustained his injuries on August 7 while on a combat patrol in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon said in a statement that the incident is under investigation.

He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where he served as an engineer sergeant.

The Green Beret joined the Army in 2008 and had previously deployed to Iraq and the Philippines.

There are about 14,000 American service members serving in Afghanistan in support of a NATO training mission known as Resolute Support. They advise and assist the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban. Most of these personnel carry out their missions at bases in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

A smaller portion of the U.S. force serves in a counter-terrorism mission known as Operation Freedom's Sentinel targeting ISIS-Khorasan and al Qaeda.

Born in Sarrat Ilocos Norte, Philippines, Transfiguracion enlisted in July 2001 with the Hawaii National Guard July 2001 serving as a motor transport operator. He deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard from 2005-2006.

He joined the active duty Army in February 2008 and again deployed to Iraq.

He then deployed to the Philippines for six months in support of Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines from 2010-2011.

He was selected for Army Special Forces and was assigned to Joint Base Lewis - McChord and B Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) as an engineer sergeant. He deployed to Afghanistan in March 2018.

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Monday
Aug132018

Inside the global manhunt for a father accused of dumping his infant in New York's East River

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- The crime was extreme, even by New York City’s already extreme standards: a 7-month-old found by a tourist floating lifelessly in the murky water of the East River.

Though it didn’t take long to identify a prime suspect, the baby’s father, police feared they might not get him because he had fled to Asia.

But, in what seemed like almost no time, James Currie, 37, was sitting in an interrogation room in the Bangkok airport being questioned by NYPD Sgt. Edward Lee.

"There was a little bit of a stunned reaction," Lee told ABC News. "When I opened the door to the interview room, when I identified myself he asked how I got there so quickly, to which I responded 'that’s just what we do.'"

Sgt. Lee is among the intelligence operatives the NYPD has posted in 14 overseas cities as part of the International Liaison Program. It started after Sept. 11, to enhance the department’s counter-terrorism capabilities, but is sometimes pressed into service for criminal activity.

"We try to react very, very quickly," NYPD Chief of Intelligence Thomas Galati told ABC News. "We’re dealing directly with police on the ground with our person so we can get things done immediately."

Currie nearly slipped away.

The day after 7-month-old Mason Saldana was discovered, police learned Currie boarded a flight from JFK to Abu Dhabi. They alerted an NYPD detective stationed in the United Arab Emirates.

"I thought there was definitely a shot that we were going to get this guy," said Lt. John Miedreich, who commands the International Liaison Program.

They were too late. Currie had flown on to Thailand.

"We contacted Sgt. Lee in Singapore and said 'get on the first plane to Thailand,'" Galati said.

While Currie was in the air, Lee alerted the Royal Thai Police. At the same time another NYPD liaison, in France, obtained permission from Interpol to hold Currie upon landing in Bangkok.

"If he were allowed to be admitted into the country without a way to have him detained it would have been a titanic problem for us," Lee said. "Getting him detained was absolutely critical."

Chief Galati credited the International Liaison Program for establishing relationships critical to solving this, and other, cases.

"If we didn’t have the cooperation of the Royal Thai Police they could just turn him around and we don’t know where he would be," Galati said.

Instead, five days after his son’s body was pulled from the river, the NYPD and Homeland Security Investigations escorted Currie back to New York to face a charge of improper disposal of a human corpse.

Currie is due back in court on Wednesday and has pleaded not guilty to the charge against him.

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Monday
Aug132018

US general pushing Saudis to investigate deadly Yemen strike: Pentagon

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The three-star American general dispatched by Defense Secretary James Mattis to look into last week's deadly Saudi airstrike in Yemen is pushing Riyadh to conduct a "timely and transparent investigation" into the incident, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

In a statement on Monday, Lt. Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told ABC News that the unidentified three-star general "adjusted his already scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss the incident with the Saudis and look into the situation."

The airstrike occurred last Thursday morning, killing at least 50 people including dozens of children traveling on a bus in the country’s Saada Province, local health officials said.

Saudi officials continue to contend that the strike was a "legitimate military action."

The area is a stronghold for the Houthis -- an Iranian-backed rebel group that overthrew the Yemeni government in 2015. The U.S. has backed a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to restore the government.

On Sunday, Mattis told reporters traveling with him to Brazil that he had "dispatched a three-star general into Riyadh to look into what happened here and if there is anything we can do to preclude this from the future."

"The general discussed investigative processes and prevention of civilian casualties with the Saudis and the need for a timely and transparent investigation into this incident," Rebarich said. "He pressed the Saudis to devote the resources and oversight required to do a thorough and complete investigation and release the results to the public."

Rebarich stressed that Mattis never said the general would be conducting an investigation, but urging the Saudis "to expeditiously and thoroughly investigate this tragic incident."

Mattis' statement echoed what State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said last week when she called for the coalition to conduct "a thorough and transparent investigation."

The U.S. backs the Saudi-led coalition by supplying bombs, intelligence, and fuel for Saudi planes.

Still, Rebarich told ABC News last Thursday that "U.S. Central Command was not involved in the airstrike in Saada."

"U.S. military support to our partners mitigates noncombatant casualties, by improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties. The final decisions on the conduct of operations in the campaign are made by the members of the Saudi-led coalition, not the United States," she said.

On Sunday, Mattis told reporters that the U.S. is "not engaged in the civil war," emphasizing that the U.S. military does not do any dynamic targeting for the coalition.

"We will help to prevent the killing of innocent people, we're very concerned about the humanitarian situation," Mattis said, adding, "Wars are always tragic, but we've got to find a way to protect innocent in the midst of this one."

Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the coalition in Yemen, said last week that the coalition had launched an operation in Saada in response to Houthi fighters firing a missile on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday evening.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said its medical teams received the bodies of 29 children, all under the age of 15. They also received 48 injured people, including 30 children, the ICRC said.

Yemen’s rebel-run Al Masirah TV aired footage of injured children weeping as blood streamed down their faces. Some of the children carried blue UNICEF backpacks, spotted with blood.

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Monday
Aug132018

Meghan Markle's dad claims he lied to Prince Harry, hung up on him

Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- After vowing to never speak to the press again, Meghan Markle’s father has done just that.

Thomas Markle penned a new op-ed in the U.K.’s The Mail on Sunday, attempting to debunk rumors that he faked his own heart attack just before his daughter wed Prince Harry on May 19.

He also wrote that he just wants his “quiet boring life back” and admitted he lied to Harry, the sixth in line to the British throne, about staging paparazzi photos and hung up on him in a phone conversation.

Thomas Markle, who lives in Mexico, also acknowledged he has had no contact with Harry and Meghan, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, since before their wedding.

"Thousands of stories have been written about me,” Thomas Markle wrote. “Things have been made up, spun around and others are outright lies.”

“I'm not the weirdo schlubby dad living in a shack in Mexico drinking beer and eating McDonald's,” he wrote.

Thomas Markle conceded in the op-ed that Harry had warned him early on about the paparazzi and he ignored the warning.

He also claimed he will not speak out again.

Previous apologies

Thomas Markle made the case in his first TV interview after Meghan and Harry's wedding as to why he felt the need to speak out.

"Photos of me were always like derogatory," he said on "Good Morning Britain" in June. "They took pictures of me buying a toilet and making a big deal out of it/, so I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look."

He later apologized to Meghan and Harry, saying it would be the last time he spoke to the press.

Just a few weeks later, he was back in front of the cameras again.

"I love you. I miss you," Markle said in a July television interview. "I want to be her child's grandfather and I want to be near them."

Thomas Markle did another interview in late July, again promising it was his last interview.

"Meghan was apparently upset with me for saying that she and Harry will probably have a baby soon," he told The Mail on Sunday.

It was The Mail on Sunday that first claimed Thomas Markle had been participating in staged photo shoots to help his image, leading him to decide to withdraw from walking Meghan down the aisle at St. George's Chapel.

Thomas Markle appeared to change his mind after speaking with Meghan and Harry, but he again backed out several days later, saying he had suffered a heart attack and would be unable to travel.

Harry's father, Prince Charles, walked Meghan down the aisle instead.

Meghan's sister, Samantha Markle, Thomas Markle's daughter, is expected to start filming this week on "Celebrity Big Brother" in the U.K. Samantha Markle, who has been a frequent television presence, was reportedly paid a six-figure amount.

Kensington Palace has not commented on Thomas Markle's statements.

"Nothing like this in the royal family has ever really happened before," said ABC News royal contributor Imogen Lloyd Webber. "They don't know how to deal with it."

Meghan, Harry carry on

Amid the family drama, Meghan, who just celebrated her 37th birthday, and Harry remain busy with engagements and enjoying some vacation time.

Later this summer, the newlyweds will make the normal royal rite of passage, a trip to see Queen Elizabeth at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

"For Harry and Meghan, the work continues and they’re focused on their lives with each other," said ABC News royal contributor Omid Scobie. "Right now Meghan absolutely has no plans to see her father and [Meghan and Harry] are about to head off to Balmoral for a short summer break."

Harry traveled to Botswana without Meghan on a private working visit with his charity Rhino Conservation, Kensington Palace confirmed last week.

"The Duke of Sussex is on a private working trip to Botswana to join the Annual General Meeting for Rhino Conservation Botswana in his capacity as Patron," a Kensington Palace spokesperson told ABC News. "He attended the Board meeting in Maun and an RCB community project in Xarakao village."

Meghan is expected to shortly announce her first charitable patronage as the fourth member of the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In October, Harry and Meghan will go on a trip to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga, where they will work toward their charitable goals and attend the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney.

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Monday
Aug132018

At least 69 including 17 children dead in apartment building blast in Syria: Monitoring group

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The death toll from an explosion in an apartment building in rebel-held northwestern Syria has risen to 69, including 17 children, a monitoring group said on Monday.

The explosion happened on Sunday morning in the town of Sarmada, when a weapons depot in the basement of an apartment building detonated, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Most of the residents in the building had been displaced from Syria’s Homs province, the organization said.

Fifty-two of those killed were civilians, including 17 children, and the rest were mostly rebel fighters, the monitoring group said.

The White Helmets, a Syrian search-and-rescue group, gave a slightly lower toll, saying 67 people were killed and another 37 injured in the explosion. The group said the explosion destroyed two buildings and that the search-and-rescue operation took 22 hours.

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Saturday
Aug112018

Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike for 90 days

Isa Foltin/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Oleg Sentsov has not eaten for 90 days.

For nearly three months, the Ukrainian film director has been on a hunger strike in a remote Russian prison, where advocates say he is being held as a political prisoner.

Sentsov, 42, was arrested in 2014 when Russian seized his native Crimea from Ukraine. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges in a trial that Amnesty International condemned as “Stalinist.”

He was then sent to a high-security prison colony in Russia’s far north inside the Arctic Circle.

On May 14, Sentsov declared a hunger strike, demanding the release of approximately 70 Ukrainian political prisoners currently held in Russia.

Since then, he has refused food, receiving only glucose and vitamin supplements. His lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, visited him on Tuesday and said Sentsov had lost 66 pounds and his heart rate had slowed to just 40 beats a minute.

Sentsov’s cousin on Thursday said she had received a letter from him in which he said he could now barely stand up and that he had written: “The end is near.”

“Things are not just bad. They are catastrophically bad,” the cousin, Natalya Kaplan, wrote in a post on Facebook.

Ukraine’s rights ombudswoman, Lyudmila Denisova, released photos of Senstov Thursday that she said she had received from her Russian counterpart. In the photos, Sentsov looks gaunt and weak, noticeably reduced from the 220 pounds he weighed when he entered prison.

Russia's prison service in a statement on Tuesday said Sentsov's condition was "satisfactory."

When Russian invaded Crimea four years ago, Sentsov was a successful filmmaker, best known for his 2011 film Gamer. A member of an activist group, he opposed the annexation vocally, taking part in demonstrations and passing food to Ukrainian soldiers trapped in their bases by Russian troops.

Two weeks after the takeover, officers from Russia’s FSB security service seized him. According to Sentsov’s account, he was tortured, suffocated with a plastic bag and threatened with rape.

Amnesty International described Sentsov’s trial as a “Stalinist show trial,” involving invented charges and confessions produced through torture. A military court convicted him of arranging for the doors of the office of the local branch of a pro-Russian party to be set on fire, and of plotting to blow up a statue of Lenin.

Prosecutors were unable to present any evidence tying Sentsov to the plot, and a key witness withdrew his confession, saying he had been tortured into making it. Still, Sentsov was convicted of terrorism.

He has been serving his sentence at the prison colony in Labytnangi in the Yamal region, where the climate is brutally cold, and which is located more than 3,000 miles from Crimea, where his two young children live.

“They wanted Senstov to be an example,” said Tanya Lokshina, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “He got 20 years for a crime he did not commit.”

Sentsov’s case has attracted international attention, with calls from politicians and film celebrities calling for him to be released, among them Johnny Depp, the novelist Stephen King and the director Pedro Almodóvar.

But the Kremlin has so far shown little sign of relenting, and the effort to free Sentsov has become increasingly urgent. Others have died on shorter hunger strikes.

The Irish Republican Bobby Sands, for example, died in 1981 after 66 days. And, during the Soviet Union, the dissident Anatoly Marchenko died after a 117-day strike, having endured forced feeding.

There had been hopes during the World Cup that the heightened international scrutiny might be used to push the Kremlin into showing leniency. But the tournament passed with no change.

The Kremlin has said Sentsov must submit an application himself for a presidential pardon. He has previously refused to ask for leniency or for his own release on the grounds that he does not recognize his detention as legitimate.

He considers himself a Ukrainian citizen illegally tried as a Russian.

Last month, Sentsov’s mother asked Russia President Vladimir Putin to pardon her son. On Wednesday, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the pardon request had been received, but it would have to be examined.

On Friday, there was a renewed push by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who called Putin to raise Sentsov’s case. But, following the call, the Kremlin’s readout made no mention of him, saying the two had discussed Syria and “some other things.”

“The clock is ticking very loudly,” said Lokshina. “With regards to the international community, it’s not for lack of trying. But somehow the Kremlin doesn’t move.”

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to transfer Sentsov to a public hospital close to Crimea and provide him with appropriate medical care while urging him to halt his strike. Sentsov has refused to be moved, however, saying he won’t survive the journey.

"I'm not ill. I'm on hunger strike, and I don't plan to stop,” Sentsov wrote in a handwritten letter published by his lawyer on Facebook.

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