Red Carpet Four out of jail - but face trial for climate action

Activists need support

Feature story - 6 January, 2010
Danish police today released from custody four Greenpeace climate protesters who have endured 20 days of pre-trial detention in Copenhagen prison following a harmless peaceful protest staged on the evening of 17 December.

Free at last! "Red Carpet Four" activists speak with journalists after their release from prison. They were held without trial for 20 days.

After 20 days in prison without trial, the four activists who became known as the "Red Carpet Four" have been released from prison. Their "crime"? Impressing on world leaders the urgency of action on climate change at a State dinner during the Copenhagen climate summit. Their release comes a day in advance of their detention being reviewed by a Danish judge. However, the four activists still face trial in the Danish courts, and possible prison sentences.

Unnecessary detention

Following the arrests of the Four, Greenpeace guaranteed - as it does in cases where volunteers are involved in peaceful protests - that, if the activists were released, they would voluntarily return to Copenhagen to stand trial. To further facilitate the police investigation, Greenpeace consistently offered its full co-operation to Danish police and provided them with comprehensive details of the activity. A request from Greenpeace asking the Danish police to specify what additional information they needed to know in connection with the case was met with two weeks of silence on the part of the police.

Such prolonged pre-trial detention appears to be a flagrant violation of key articles of international human rights agreements.

British human rights lawyer Richard Harvey

Only on Tuesday 5 January, did Danish police finally request the names of other individuals who had been in the Greenpeace 'motorcade' on 17 December. Today, these individuals volunteered their details, removing the last conceivable reason for detention.

The Danish police proved unco-operative in the face of honest efforts on our part to find compromise. As a result, the four activists spent Christmas and New Year in jail, far from their family and without visitation rights.

Necessary action

On 17 December, three of the activists posed as the "Head of State of the Natural World", his "wife" and their security detail. They were waved through the security cordon surrounding the Danish Parliament. Arriving inside the venue for the State banquet they unfolded banners reading, "Politicians Talk, Leaders Act".

Heads of State met the next day for the final sessions of the Copenhagen climate summit. They came no further than producing an empty shell of a document - the 'Copenhagen Accord'. Only five pages in length - two of which contain only blank tables - it contains no legally binding targets for limiting emissions of global warming gases. The summit merely "noted" but did not adopt the Accord.

Over 13,000 people gave their support to the Red Carpet Four in 24 hours, and announced their support for future civil disobedience. Action is needed and expected from true world leaders in the face of the grave threat of Climate Change.

In Copenhagen, world leaders let the opportunity for agreeing a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement slip through their fingers. We cannot let them fail again!

As long as our 'leaders' behave like 'losers', and continue to drag their feet, they can expect more and more people to find creative ways of expressing their concern and building up pressure for change.


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