Greenland, June 21 2011 - The International Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, has been deported from Greenland after four days in jail. He is being flown to Copenhagen, where he will be held in prison for the night before being taken to Amsterdam, where he will be released.
Naidoo and fellow activist Ulvar Arnkvaern were arrested on Friday morning after breaching an exclusion zone and scaling a controversial Arctic oil rig 120km off the Greenland coast. They were charged with trespassing and fined 20,000 DKK. The rig's operators Cairn Energy used powerful water cannons to try to prevent him climbing a 30 metre ladder up the outside of one of the rig's giant legs, but Naidoo braved the freezing jets and made it to the platform (video available).
Soaking wet he demanded that Cairn immediately halt drilling operations and leave the Arctic. He also presented to the rig's operators the names of 50,000 people from across the world who have emailed Cairn to demand they publish the rig's secret oil spill response plan. The document has been at the centre of a month-long campaign of direct action in the Arctic. After 90 minutes on the rig a helicopter from a nearby Danish warship landed above his head and he was arrested. Before climbing the rig he described the campaign to stop Arctic oil drilling as "one of the defining environmental battles of our age."
In a letter to his daughter from jail on Sunday - Fathers Day - explaining why he scaled the rig, Kumi Naidoo wrote:
"The prison staff here in Greenland are kind and are treating us well. We get three decent meals a day (though I miss spicy food!) and we get two 30 min walks in the fresh air each day. While this struggle to prevent the destruction of the Arctic might appear remote, it is fundamental for all of humanity. It is global warming that has threatened the livelihoods of millions and the melting of the Arctic ice cap leads to sea level rise around the world. Therefore it is important that we get our leaders to stop recklessly chasing the last drops of oil that exist at the expense of pursuing better alternatives."
Kumi, 45, was a youth leader in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, where he was arrested several times and charged with violating provisions against mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and for violating the state of emergency. He lived underground before being forced to flee South Africa and live in exile in the UK.
He is scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen at 21.15 local time tonight, spend the night in jail, leave Copenhagen at 08:25 tomorrow morning and arrive in Amsterdam at 09:55.
***video and stills available***
For more contact Greenpeace International 24-hour press desk on +31 20 718 2470
For arranging interviews with Kumi Naidoo please contact Dietlind Lerner on +31 64 6162 026
Contact the Greenpeace ship Esperanza on +47 5140 7986 / 7 / 8
Greenpeace Picture Desk, , +31 629001152
Greenpeace International Video Desk, +1 267 239 7288
Experts believe an Arctic oil spill would be extremely hard to deal with because of the freezing temperatures and remote location. Private state documents revealed last month show that the UK government believes an Arctic spill would be 'near impossible' to clean up:
The Leiv Eiriksson is one of just two drilling vessels operating off the coast of Greenland. The world's oil giants are watching Cairn's rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.
Arctic sea ice record low for time of year:
Two weeks ago Greenpeace stopped operations on the rig for four days by hanging a survival pod occupied by two activists from its underside. On June 4 Greenpeace stopped the rig drilling for 10 hours after 18 activists scaled the rig to demand a copy of Cairn's Oil Spill Response Plan.
Even without an accident Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait - including 180 tonnes of red-listed chemicals (more than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined). The company admits that it would take decades before significant profits from oil exploration flow to Greenland, while Cairn's operations pose a grave threat to Greenland's fisheries, which represent 88% of the island's export economy.
The area where Cairn intends to drill is known as 'Iceberg Alley'. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig's path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. If the icebergs are too large the company has admitted it will need to move the rig itself. Last year a 260km2 ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley. The region is famous for its narwhal population.