Greenpeace activists charged with piracy by Russian authorities

From The Guardian UK:

Fourteen of 30 activists charged so far with ‘piracy as part of an organised group’ following Arctic Sunrise drilling protest

in Moscow
The Guardian, Wednesday 2 October 2013

Greenpeace activists who were seized while protesting against Arctic oil drilling face up to 15 years in a Russian jail after being formally charged with piracy.

The 14 charged include four British nationals. Kieron Bryan, a freelance videographer, and the activists Alexandra Harris, Philip Ball and Anthony Perrett were all accused of “piracy as part of an organised group”. The offence carries a prison sentence of between 10 and 15 years.

Altogether there are 30 activists from 18 different countries being held in jails in the Russian port of Murmansk. They were travelling aboard the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship that last month mounted a protest against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig. The drilling platform, in the Pechora Sea, is operated by the Russian energy group Gazprom. As two activists tried to scale it, Russian border guards descended on to the boat from helicopters and escorted it back to Murmansk with those on board kept under armed guard.

Last week, all 30 were remanded in custody by a Murmansk court for a period of up to two months while investigators look into the charges. Prosecutors issued piracy charges for the activists one at a time throughout Wednesday , and Greenpeace expects the 16 remaining activists to be charged on Thursday .

The executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, said the decision by the Russian authorities to charge the activists represented “the most serious threat to Greenpeace’s peaceful environmental activism” since the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. French secret service agents planted bombs on the ship to sink it in 1985, before a protest against nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. The captain of the Arctic Sunrise, US citizen Peter Willcox, was also the captain of the Rainbow Warrior at the time. He is being held in Murmansk but has yet to be charged.

“A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience,” said Naidoo. “Any claim that these activists are pirates is as absurd as it is abominable.”

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