16 November 2013, Sydney/Amsterdam. Family of Australian Colin Russell and Manly resident Alex Harris today expressed their dismay at news that Russia’s Investigative Committee yesterday announced that it will apply for a 3 month extension to the detention of the Arctic 30. They will make the applications in front of a judge at hearings next week.
Family spoke to 100s of supporters at a colourful event by Sydney Harbour. Supporters formed a “Free The Arctic 30” sign and families released 30 white doves (photos will be available).
The Greenpeace campaigners went to the Arctic to shine a light on dangerous oil drilling and the threat it poses both to the fragile polar environment and the global climate.
Applications to keep the thirty in jail have only been filed for some of the Arctic30 — so far six extension requests were filed yesterday with the Kalininskiy District Court, with more possible and a further nine expected to follow on Monday.
Greenpeace lawyers have been told the Investigative Committee is applying to keep the detainees in prison for a further three months while they investigate their alleged crimes. The Committee needs to apply to a court to have its application upheld. If it is not upheld by a judge, the 30 will be released.
Wife of Tasmanian Colin Russell, Christine, who spoke in Sydney, responded to the news of the possible extension in pre-trial detention: “This is bad news for Colin and for our family and his friends. We desperately want to see Colin home in time for Christmas. Without him it will be an unbearably lonely time in our house and we can only imagine how sad it would be for him in his cell in Russia. We are asking the government to do everything it can to help secure his release.”
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Program Director Ben Pearson said: “The charges against Colin Russell and the other 29 people now detained in St Petersburg are widely recognised as excessive and disproportionate. World leaders from the UK, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Germany have made their concern about the situation very clear. It’s time the Australian government did the same.”
Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said, “Our hearts break for our friends in jail and for their loved ones on the outside. We will fiercely resist this absurd attempt to keep those men and women in jail for a crime they did not commit. If the authorities succeed then we will appeal and ask for their release as soon as the court can schedule a hearing. This is a farce, it is an outrage that makes a joke of justice.”
The hearings must be completed by November 24th. Greenpeace International will oppose the applications in court. Greenpeace lawyers will also make a subsidiary argument that bail should be granted to the thirty while the investigation continues. If the application for further detention is upheld by the judge, Greenpeace lawyers will then appeal that decision and will again apply for bail. If bail is granted it could be subject to travel restrictions while the investigation continues. Only if that application fails would the 30 then remain in jail.
Kumi Naidoo said, “The authorities have already taken two months to investigate an imaginary crime. Now the authorities need three more months to investigate? This sham should end now, everybody knows this is not a genuine criminal investigation.”
Despite promising to withdraw the charge of piracy, the Investigative Committee has thus far failed to formally do so.
Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights, yesterday told RIA Novosti media that he believes the transfer of Arctic 30 to St Petersburg was a prelude to a change in their charges and their eventual release .
Contact for comment and photos: Alison Orme Greenpeace Australia Pacific 0432 332 104,
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