Greenpeace to appeal Russia detention of activists
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Greenpeace activists demonstrate near the Russian embassy in Paris, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. AP PhotoGreenpeace on Friday vowed to appeal and not give in to intimidation after a Russian court ruled to detain all 30 crew members of a ship involved in a high seas protest against Arctic oil drilling.
The Lenin district court in the northern city of Murmansk ruled Thursday that 22 crew members will remain in pre-trial detention for two months during the investigation into alleged piracy over the September 18 protest at a Gazprom oil rig.
The other eight crew members of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, whose detention was prolonged by three days, face new hearings on Sunday that could see them detained for a further period.
"We will not be intimidated, we will appeal these detentions, and together we will prevail," Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. "These detentions are like the Russian oil industry itself, a relic from an earlier era," he added.
Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov compared the seizure by Russia of the Arctic Sunrise and the arrest of the activists to the bombing of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior by French secret services in 1985.
"What happened to the Arctic Sunrise is the most unfriendly and aggressive act after the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior," he told reporters in Moscow. Among those to be held for two months was the ship's American captain, Peter Willcox, the captain of the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed and sunk by French secret services in New Zealand in 1985 while on a voyage to campaign against nuclear testing.
The court also ordered the two-month detention of photographer Denis Sinyakov, a former staff photographer at AFP and Reuters who was working for Greenpeace as a freelancer.
The cases of the eight who will hear their further fate on Sunday were postponed because the court lacked information on the activists or could not find interpreters, the Interfax news agency reported.
The 30 crew members detained include six British citizens, four Russians and nationals of 16 other countries. Russian investigators have accused the Greenpeace activists of piracy after two of them tried to scale state energy giant Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea.
The group has denied committing piracy and accuses Russia of illegally boarding its ship in international waters.
In protest at the detention of photographer Sinyakov, several Russian news websites, including that of NTV national television channel and Novaya Gazeta opposition newspaper blacked out all their photographs on Friday.
"Denis Sinyakov's being accused of piracy and his preliminary detention for two months will probably become a precedent in the history of Russian journalism," Vedomosti business daily warned in an editorial.
The court's decision came despite President Vladimir Putin saying on Wednesday that the activists "are not pirates".
Putin added, however, that the activists had broken international law by getting dangerously close to the oil rig.
Investigators in court said that the activists had committed piracy by trying to seize property with threats of violence.
The spokesman for the Investigative Committee, which probes major cases in Russia, said Thursday that the charge against the group could be reduced in the course of the investigation.
International reaction was muted, with only the Netherlands government on Wednesday calling on Russia to immediately release the detained activists and saying it was considering legal action.
The Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise was seized by the Russian security forces who winched down from a helicopter in a commando-style operation last week.
The ship remains under the control of the Russian security forces, who towed it into Murmansk with the Greenpeace crew on board. It now is anchored off Murmansk and its fate is uncertain with some fearing it may be permanently seized by Russia.
Izvestia daily cited lawyers as saying that Greenpeace's ship could be confiscated under Russian law if it is proven to have sailed into a restricted zone without permission. Greenpeace held a similar protest at the same oil platform last year without incurring any punishment.