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Letter from an 'Arctic 30' Protester: Why I'm Not a Hooligan

Phil Ball writes this letter from Russia's Murmansk jail holding the Greenpeace Arctic 30 in their eighth week of imprisonment for peacefully protesting dangerous drilling in the Arctic.

I have to admit the prospect of a conviction for piracy initially sounded quite funny for about two seconds until the maximum penalty of 15 years was mentioned, then it stopped being even slightly amusing. Still a joke, but a very unfunny one. Even when lawyers, cellmates and, yes, even the prosecutor made jokes about parrots and tried to say "Arrrr" in a Russian accent. (OK, so that bit was still funny.) The coastguard seadogs had held us at gunpoint while they trashed our ship, towed it to their port and stole our booty; they even drank John's and Frank's bottles of rum without a "Yo ho ho!"

Russian Coastguard: Guilty – Pirates

Thankfully that's all in the past. Now we, the "Arctic 30", face the charge of hooliganism. At first, it sounds only a bit more serious than naughty rascal or cheeky monkey. Something must be lost in the translation because seven years in prison seems a bit harsh. My sons, aged seven and nine, will be teenagers and my little girl will have forgotten who I am if I get out of here in seven years. Pretty unfunny too.

The small print of the charge says that hooliganism is a "gross violation of public order" and "in contempt of society". Well, hang on just a moment: "contempt of society"? I give blood; volunteer at my local scout group; pick up dog poo off the playing field and I don't have a dog; went to court as a witness to two violent crimes; helped fight a supermarket development; have taught kids to make award-winning films; have worked on projects for the Stop Aids foundation and the RSPB; invested £1,000 of my own money to help set up a community wind farm co-operative; and once saved and hand-reared a pigeon called Gerald. But the biggest thing I've done in support and protection of society? Coming 180 nautical miles north of the Arctic Circle to protest against Arctic oil drilling, against the greedy mega-rich oil companies Gazprom, Shell and others that do not listen to the warnings about oil spills, runaway climate change, hurricanes, droughts, floods and famines, and continue to make a fortune at the expense of and "in contempt of" the societies of our children and grandchildren.

Hooligans doesn't even come close to what they are guilty of.

So, no, I'm not a pirate and I'm not a hooligan. OK? Can I come home now?

- Phil Ball – father of three cheeky monkeys and one of the Arctic 30