Amsterdam, 24 October 2013 – Russian authorities today formally charged a Greenpeace International activist with hooliganism, a crime that carries a maximum seven year jail term and has been described by the European Parliament as a threat to freedom of expression and demonstration.
Andrey Allakhverdov (Russia) was charged with hooliganism under article 213, part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code. Russian authorities have also started charging other members of the Arctic 30, who include 28 Greenpeace International activists plus a freelance videographer and a freelance photographer, with hooliganism.
In response, Ben Ayliffe at Greenpeace International said:
"The Arctic 30 are innocent of all charges. There can be no justification for locking them up in a cell in Murmansk. This was an entirely peaceful protest in international waters to shine a light on Gazprom's reckless Arctic oil drilling plans. Eleven warning shots were fired across the Arctic Sunrise, bullets were fired into the water next to the protesters, they were threatened with guns and knives and detained on trumped up charges to defend Gazprom’s oil interests. Who are the real hooligans here?”
"Among the detainees is a young woman who, before going to the Arctic, helped collect clothes and books for underprivileged children. Others are family members, sisters and fathers. These people are men and women with a conscience, and to brand them hooligans only cheapens the word.”
Hooliganism is a serious and wildly disproportionate charge. Although Russia's Investigative Committee yesterday finally agreed with international legal experts and President Putin himself when he stated the Arctic 30 would no longer be charged with piracy, they did not officially drop the charge today against Allakhverdov. He is therefore presently charged with both piracy and hooliganism.
International law holds that countries have no right to seize each others' ships or nationals in international waters based on hooliganism charges (in contrast to piracy). The Arctic 30 were illegally arrested and Greenpeace International is calling for them to be immediately released.
The Regional Court of Murmansk rejected three more appeals against the continued detention of the Arctic 30 today, bringing the number to 30 who have had their requests rejected. Those who had their appeals against the continued detention rejected today were: crew member Paul Ruzycki (Canada), crew member Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel (Brazil) and crew member Ruslan Yakushev (Ukraine).
In court Paul Ruzycki said:
"We are peaceful activists from around the world, working for a common goal. We are basically asking for Green and Peace. We do this to raise public awareness by exposing the destructive actions of multinational corporations. We use non-violent practice and we bring the global media with us to give a voice where there is no voice.
"We have nothing personal to gain by our non-violent actions. On the contrary we have everything to lose: Our freedom, family and friends. I hope you understand this. We do this because we are fortunate enough and we are able to. Myself and many other people involved have seen many of these injustices mostly for the greed and money. We do this so our children will have a quality of life worth living."
The European Union also voiced its concern for the Arctic 30 detainees on Wednesday as more than 90 members of the European Parliament signed a solidarity statement calling for their immediate release. MEPs also said the amended charge of hooliganism remains "disproportionate" and could also be seen as a threat to democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration. (1)
Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo has written to Dutch-based oil major Shell urging it to end its Arctic oil partnership with Gazprom now that its partner has been involved in a serious violation of the right to free expression. Although Shell has tried to distance itself with the situation around the Arctic 30 by saying it has nothing to do with the events in Russia, it cannot hide in the shadow of its Russian partner forever.
“As one of the world's largest oil majors and Gazprom's biggest partner, Shell quite obviously has the power to encourage Gazprom to find a solution to this outrageous situation. By staying silent, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Shell is putting its deal with Gazprom ahead of the release of these prisoners of conscience,” Greenpeace UK campaigner Jim Footner said.
1. European Parliament statement:
Greenpeace EU statement:
Greenpeace International press desk: +31 20 718 24 70 / /@greenpeacepress
Greenpeace International picture desk: +31 207 18 24 71
Greenpeace International video desk: +31 207 18 24 72