Amsterdam, 18 November 2013 - A court in St Petersburg has ruled that a Greenpeace International activist could remain in jail in Russia until at least February.
A further four activists and two freelance journalists – all members of so-called ‘Arctic 30’ – face hearings today, with Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee applying for extensions to their detention. The 28 activists and two freelance journalists have been detained since their ship was seized at gunpoint by Russian security forces exactly two months ago.
This morning a judge at St Petersburg’s Primorskiy courthouse ruled that Australian Colin Russell must remain in jail until February 24 while the investigation into a protest continues. A request for bail or house arrest was denied.
Before being told he must remain in prison, Colin told the judge: “I haven't done anything wrong. I don't understand the reasons why I've been detained. I've done two months hard time for nothing. I've done nothing wrong.” After being informed of the court’s ruling, he said: “I love you all. I love everybody. I am not a criminal.”
The thirty were held after a peaceful protest in international waters at a Gazprom operated Arctic oil rig.
Reacting to the news, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:
“The authorities say they need three months more to investigate an imaginary offence over which they have no jurisdiction. They say they need to keep those brave men and women in jail until February so they can probe a crime that simply did not happen. This case is now a circus. Our friends may now be in jail for months longer, all because they made a stand for all of us in the pristine Arctic. We will continue to pursue every legal avenue we can, and leave no stone unturned, until each and every one of them is home with their families. We hope the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea will order their release when they adjudicate on Friday.”
Lawyers for Greenpeace will now appeal the decision and apply for bail for the detainees. If bail were to be granted it could be subject to travel restrictions while the investigation continues.
Prosecutors in court are not seeking extension of detention for piracy - the original charge brought against the 30. However, formal withdrawal of the piracy charge requires a written statement. Lawyers for the detainees have petitioned for such a statement but it has not been given - indicating that this is a policy decision and not an oversight by the authorities.
Activists in court today are Ana Paula Maciels (Brazil); Colin Russell (Australia); David John Haussmann (New Zealand); Ekaterina Zaspa (Russia); Andrey Allakhyerdov (Russia). Freelance journalists Kieron Bryan (UK) and Denis Sinyakov (Russia) are also appearing in court.