Update (1:09 pm EST): Number of activists charged with piracy rises
According to a new press statement from Greenpeace:
Thirteen Greenpeace activists and a freelance video journalist have now been charged with piracy under Article 227 of the Russian Criminal Code. The maximum sentence, if convicted, is 15 years in a Russian jail. A further 15 activists and a Russian freelance photojournalist will appear in front of the Russian Investigative Committee one of the following days, we expect.
The individuals against whom the piracy charge has been laid are:
Argentinian Camila Speziale; Brazilian Ana Paula Maciel; Britons Philip Ball, Alexandra Harris, Anthony Perrett, and freelance videographer Kieron Bryan; Dutch citizens Faiza Oulahsen and Mannes Ubels; Finnish citizen Sini Saarela; Polish citizen Tomasz Dziemianczuk; Russian Roman Dolgov and one other Russian crew member whose name is withheld on their request. Swedish / American dual citizen Dima Litvinov; and Ukrainian citizen Ruslan Yakushev.
Amnesty International has demanded that the Russian authorities drop the “absurd and damaging” piracy charges (1). Over 60 other NGOs have issued statements of concern and support including Human Rights Watch, Christian Aid, WWF International, Friends of the Earth International, 350, Sierra Club, Reporters Without Borders, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Global Witness.
Nobel Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks, Russian Human Rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva and numbers lawmakers and MEPs are also calling for their release. In an interview on Ekho Moskvy Radio on Wednesday, Russian rock legend Yuri Shevchuk dismissed the piracy charges as ridiculous. “The whole world knows Greenpeace,” he said. “Greenpeace is the organization that helped save the Antarctic. . . and penguins and scientists live there happily. And what about saving whales!”
Of the thirty Greenpeace activists taken into custody last week over their peaceful protest against arctic drilling by oil giant Gazprom, five of them on Wednesday have been officially charged with piracy by Russian officials.
The news sparked a harsh reaction from the global environmental group, who say their protest against a large drilling platform in the Pechora Sea was designed to show that the plundering of the pristine and fragile arctic regions by the world's largest fossil fuel companies would not go unchallenged. The charge of piracy, according to the group, is nothing less than an assault on the right to voice dissent.
"A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest," said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.
"It is an extreme and disproportionate charge," he said.
In all, 30 individuals—28 Greenpeace activists, one freelance photographer, and one freelance videographer—were arrested by Russian authorities following the incident on September 18.
As Reuters reports:
The federal Investigative Committee said authorities had begun charging 30 people arrested after the protest last month, in which a Greenpeace icebreaker approached the Prirazlomnaya platform and two activists tried to scale the rig - a crucial part of Russia's effort to mine Arctic resources.
By midday [Wednesday], five people had been charged, Greenpeace said - Brazilian crew member Ana Paula Alminhana, Russian activist Roman Dolgov, Finnish activist Sini Saarela, British freelance videographer Kieron Bryan, and Dima Litvinov, an activist with Swedish and U.S. citizenship.
Additionally, in response to the latest developments, Greenpeace released new photographs from its ship, the Arctic Sunrise, showing the moments when a Russian helicopter descended and armed soldiers took possession of the crew and the vessel.
“I ask people to look at those photographs and decide if the peaceful campaigners with their arms raised, with guns pointed at their chests, could ever be described as pirates,” said Naidoo.
Dubbing those arrested the "Arctic 30" and urging supporters to use the hashtag #FreeTheArctic30, Greenpeace has launched a global campaign aimed at winning their full exoneration and immediate release.