Nobel winners ask Putin to drop activists’ charges

Nobel winners ask Putin to drop activists’ charges

Nobel winners ask Putin to drop activists’ charges

Turkish activist Gizem Akhan (R) is one of the detained Greenpeace members. Russia has been under global pressure for the activists’ release. AA photo

Eleven Nobel Peace Prize winners have called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure that “excessive charges of piracy” against 30 Greenpeace activists are dropped, Greenpeace said today.

“We are writing to ask you to do all you can to ensure that the excessive charges of piracy against the 28 Greenpeace activists, freelance photographer and freelance videographer are dropped, and that any charges brought are consistent with international and Russian law,” they said in a letter, according to Agence France--Presse .

“We are confident that you share our desire to respect the right to nonviolent protest,” they said in the letter released by Greenpeace.

The Russian authorities have charged the 30 crew members with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, after they staged a protest against Arctic oil drilling last month.

The activists from 18 countries have been placed in pre-trial detention until late November, where their lawyer said they have to endure “inhuman conditions.” The Nobel laureates including South African Bishop Desmond Tutu and former President of East Timor Jose Ramos Horta said that an oil spill in the Arctic would have a “catastrophic impact” on local communities.

“We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the ‘Arctic 30’ in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic.” Putin has said that the activists from Greenpeace’s Dutch-flagged vessel “of course are not pirates” but his spokesman later said the president had expressed his own opinion. Last week Russian investigators said “narcotic substances” had been found on the ship and several of the activists would face additional charges.

Merkel calls Putin 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Oct. 16 of her concerns over the arrest of Greenpeace activists after a protest at an Arctic drilling platform and urged a swift resolution of the case.

“The Chancellor expressed her concern to Putin over the arrest of the crew of the Greenpeace boat, impounded in Russia, and voiced her hope that this case will soon be resolved,” Merkel’s spokesman said in a statement, Reuters reported.

Germany has become an increasingly vocal critic of Moscow’s record on human rights, despite Russia’s importance as an energy exporter, straining personal ties between Merkel and Putin.

A Kremlin statement about the leaders’ telephone call made no mention of the activists. 

Days back, several dozen journalists took to the streets of Saint Petersburg to demand the release of Denis Sinyakov, detained on piracy charges along with the crew of a Greenpeace ship after an Arctic oil drilling protest. The Greenpeace members, who come from nearly 20 countries, have been ordered held until late November pending further investigation. A Turkish activist, Gizem Akhan, is also one of the detained activists.