Russian court releases last Greenpeace activist on bail
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
A handout picture taken on November 18, 2013 and released by Greenpeace International shows Greenpeace International activist Colin Russell from Australia flashing the V-sign for "victory" while standing in a defendant cage in a court in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg. AFP PhotoA Russian court on Thursday ordered to release on bail the last of 30 Greenpeace crew members who had been held in detention since their September protest against Arctic oil drilling.
"Excellent news! Colin Russell from Australia is granted bail," the global environmental protection group tweeted in a message that was confirmed by Russian news agency reports from the Saint Peterburg court.
Russell -- the radio operator on the ship Arctic Sunrise -- was the first of the 28 activists and two journalists on board to have had his case heard by the Saint Petersburg court.
A Saint Petersburg judge on November 18 ordered to extend the arrest of the 59-year-old Australian until February 24 -- a day after the end of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games hosted by Russia.
But the city's courts later ruled to release all of the other crew members on bail amid mounting international pressure on Russia.
Officials never explained why Russell had his bail request refused while the other 29 crew members were released.
"I am so relieved that my beautiful, peaceful man will soon be out of detention," Russell's wife Christine said in a statement released by Greenpeace.
"It remains a really difficult time and it's only when all of the Arctic 30 are free to go home will we be able to properly celebrate," she added.
The icebreaker's crew was comprised of four Russians as well as nationals from 18 countries and it remains unclear when the foreigners may be allowed to go home.
All of them still formally face hooliganism charges that carry jail sentences of up to seven years and have been staying in a Saint Petersburg hotel.
Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said on Saturday that the foreigners will be allowed to travel home "as soon as the issue of how they can leave Russia is resolved".
Russian media said the issue hindering the crew members' departure is their lack of Russian visas.
Greenpeace said in a statement that Russell will be released from prison as soon as the court accepts the organisation's two-million-ruble ($60,000) bail payment.