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Piracy Charges Against Greenpeace: 'Not Justice, But a Reprisal'

Thirty charged could face up to fifteen years in prison for peaceful protest against Arctic drilling

Jon Queally, staff writer

All 30 people aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise have now been officially charged with piracy by Russian officials. Of those, 28 are counted as members of the international environmental group and two were freelance journalists documenting the crew's work.

Those charged have been in custody for more than ten days and if convicted of piracy the individuals face the possibility of as much as fifteen years in prison.

Those arrested hail from 18 different countries and Greenpeace on has been posting updates on the status of those now known as the Arctic 30.

Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of an advisory panel on human rights assigned to oversee the judicial process in Russia, told the Interfax news agency that there was "not the slightest basis" for the piracy charges.

'This is not justice, it's a reprisal,' Fedotov said.

Lawyers for the 30 have filed appeals against the decision to hold them in detention, according to reports, but they could remain in jail for weeks more.

As Agence France-Presse reports:

A court in the northern city of Murmansk last week detained the crew members for two months pending an investigation into their protest on an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom.

"All 30 participants in the criminal case have been charged over the attack on the Prirazlomnaya platform," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

"They are all charged with... piracy committed by an organised group."

Piracy by an organised group carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years in Russia.

Investigators accused the activists of trying to seize property with threats of violence.


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The first 14 activists were charged on Wednesday and the rest were indicted Thursday.

The mother of one Greenpeace member arrested, Canadian Alexandre Paul of Montreal, spoke to the Canadian Press about her son's predicament and the charges against him:

"I think we can agree that piracy involves weapons and taking control of another vessel. Greenpeace did nothing like that," Paul's mother, Nicole Paul, said in a phone interview from Pike River, Que., south of Montreal.

Nicole Paul said her son has travelled the globe the last seven years to defend his ideals and that he once spent a night in prison in Scotland before being released without charge.

"Nothing has ever happened like this. They're being treated like terrorists. It's not easy."

She said the activists were protesting peacefully.

Greenpeace is actively protesting the charges, of course, calling them 'ludicrous' and without merit.

“Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen, they are accused of an imaginary offense," said the group's executive director Kumi Naidoo. "There can be no doubt about why the charge of piracy has been brought and the legal hammer wielded. An effort is underway to intimidate us, but our peaceful passionate campaign against Gazprom and all other Arctic drillers will not be silenced."

In the wake of the incident, that took place in the Pechora Sea on September 18, Greenpeace released photos and video of the events as they unfolded and has said the footage makes it self-evident that the activists were not only peaceful but were the victims of harsh, threatening, and dangerous manuevers by the Russian Coast Guard and the agents who boarded the Arctic Sunrise.

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, a global campaign has begun to #FreeTheArctic30 and Greenpeace has said the piracy charges will only motivate them further to make sure the real perpetrators of violence in the Arctic have the light properly shown on them.

"A profound injustice is right now being perpetrated against our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who sit in jail," said Naidoo. "I call on people across the world to stand with us against Gazprom and all oil companies who want to drill in the Arctic, join us in this fight against bullies of the very worst kind.”


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