24 December 2013
Peter Willcox Meets His Wife at St. Petersburg Airport © Dmitri Sharomov / Greenpeace
It's the end of a beginning. After spending two months in jail, the Arctic 30 have finally been granted amnesty by the Russian Parliament. Though, that's a reason to rejoice, the Arctic 30 expressed their one major concern when they found out, "There is no amnesty for the Arctic". Indeed, there isn't.
Elucidates Ana Paula Maciel from Brazil, one of the 30 people who was seized in international waters when the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was boarded by armed Russian commandos before being towed to Murmansk, "I'm relieved, but I'm not celebrating. I spent two months in jail for a crime I didn't commit and faced criminal charges that were nothing less than absurd. But now at last it seems like this saga could soon be over and it may not be long before we're back with our families. Right now my thoughts are with our Russian colleagues. If they accept this amnesty they will have criminal records in the country where they live, and all for something they didn't do. All because we stood up for Arctic protection."
The legal proceedings against the Arctic 30 are now almost certain to come to an end and the 26 non-Russians will be free to return home to their families as soon as they are given exit visas by the Russian authorities.
Peter Willcox, Captain of the Arctic Sunrise says, "I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place. We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns. Now it's nearly over and we may soon be truly free, but there's no amnesty for the Arctic. We may soon be home, but the Arctic remains a fragile global treasure under assault by oil companies and the rising temperatures they're driving. We went there to protest against this madness. We were never the criminals here."
The campaign to free the Arctic 30 has seen 860 protests in 46 countries and in more than 150 cities worldwide, while more than 2.6 million people wrote to Russian embassies.
Supporters included Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna, Jude Law, Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Ricky Martin, Edward Norton, Gael García Bernal, Ricardo Darín, Alejandro Sanz, and Pedro Almodóvar, amongst others.
Political support was offered by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Angela Merkel, David Cameron, François Hollande, Ban Ki-moon and Hillary Clinton. Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners called for their release, including Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa.