Piracy charges laid against Greenpeace International activists

Press release - October 4, 2013
Wellington Event on Saturday Outside Russian Embassy

A further 15 Greenpeace International activists and a Russian freelance photojournalist were today charged with piracy in Murmansk. This means that all 28 activists from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, as well as two freelancers, now face the charge. If convicted, the offence carries a maximum 15 year jail term.

New Zealanders Jonathan Beauchamp and David Haussmann were among those charged.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Greenpeace International have now lodged formal appeals in the Murmansk Lenin district court against the continued detention of the Arctic 30.

Tomorrow, ‘heaps of people’ are expected to attend the Wellington leg of a global day of activities calling for the Arctic 3028 Greenpeace activists to be released from Russian jail cells.

The Wellington event will kick off at midday on Saturday outside the Russian Embassy in Karori. There will be live music, plus speeches from the detained activists’ families, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and others.

Mary Beauchamp, Jon’s mother, said: “Our Jon is a caring, practical, commonsense sort of man, and we think very brave too.

“He’s full of Kiwi ingenuity, just ideal for coping with the job he absolutely loves - looking after the little boats on the Arctic Sunrise.

“He is particularly passionate about the Arctic and the oceans and all the creatures that depend on this environment, and knows the area very well.

“Peaceful protest is one thing, but he would never condone violent or hurtful actions in order to get the message out about the dangers of drilling for oil in such a fragile place.  The detention and the charge of piracy do seem excessive, and we hope will be reconsidered very, very soon by the Russian authorities, so they can all come home as soon as possible."

Bunny McDiarmid, head of Greenpeace New Zealand, said: “We’re hoping heaps of people come down to the Russian Embassy this Saturday. Bring the kids, bring a picnic, listen to some music, but also stand up for some brave Kiwis who were trying to protect the fragile and fast disappearing Arctic.”

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said: “Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen, they are accused of an imaginary offence. 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. A profound injustice is right now being perpetrated against our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who sit in jail. 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.”

Greenpeace International is taking its efforts to highlight the case, free the activists and protect the Arctic to a global level. On Tuesday night Greenpeace climbers hung a huge banner from the roof of FC Basel’s St. Jakob-Park stadium in Switzerland as the team faced Schalke in the UEFA Champions League - a tournament sponsored by Gazprom. On Wednesday all of Gazprom’s filling stations in Germany were hit by protests.

Saturday’s event in Wellington is part of an emergency global day of solidarity. Peaceful events are planned in more than 80 cities in 45 countries across the world. In Hong Kong hundreds will gather at the main harbour to form a human banner. In South Africa people will come together at former Apartheid detention centres. In Canada large audio and visual displays will light up at an all-night event. In Madrid supporters will gather in Puerto del Sol with a replica of the Arctic Sunrise ship. And in Senegal fishermen who last year welcomed the Arctic Sunrise on its voyage to preserve their fishing grounds will take to their boats again in an act of solidarity.

Today Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian presidential Human Rights Council, said he sees no reason to prosecute the crew of the Arctic Sunrise for piracy (1). The council is an advisory panel established to assist President Putin in fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities to guarantee and protect human rights. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders have called for the release of the activists, while media outlets are increasingly highlighting their plight.

The 28 activists, a freelance photographer and the freelance videographer, were involved in a protest against the Gazprom Arctic drilling platform Prirazlomnaya on September 18th. Two activists tried to climb the side of the platform and hang a banner.