A group of Greenpeace activists held by Russian authorities since late September were facing charges of piracy. Wednesday Russia dropped the piracy charges and declared the activists "hooligans".
A group of 30 Greenpeace activists, including a Russian photographer and a British video journalist, staged a protest at an Arctic oil rig. 17 of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested were, in early October, formally charged with piracy by the Russian authorities.
Russia Today reported at that time that Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said, "It is an extreme and disproportionate charge."
Piracy convictions in Russia carry a sentence of up to 15 years in jail. Wednesday there is a glimmer of good news for those arrested. News that Russia is dropping the piracy charges is good but the activists will now face charges of hooliganism instead.
That may sound a better option but if found guilty of hooliganism the group face maximum prison sentences of seven years each.
Sky News reports that the 30 men and women will face charges of hooliganism. In September "The activists were on board the ship Arctic Sunrise and are accused of attempting to board a Gazprom Arctic oil platform four days ago. The Greenpeace ship was seized on Sept. 20 after two of the activists boarded the Prirazlomnaya oil platform owned by the Russian state energy company Gazprom".
Russian President Putin quickly refuted claims that the activists were pirates but insisted that their actions broke international law.
Wednesday Greenpeace reports on their blog that: "the Netherlands lodged a lawsuit against Russia today at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, seeking the release of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and its passengers. This is an important and welcome move by the Dutch government and boosts hopes that the 28 Greenpeace International activists, plus a freelance photographer and videographer, might soon be released from detention in Murmansk".
A spokesman for Greenpeace Russia, Vladimir Chuprov, said Wednesday: "We will contest the trumped up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations. "They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality."
Who are Greenpeace?
Greenpeace is an NGO, non-governmental organisation, which is passionate about protecting our beautiful planet, Mother Earth, from destruction and abuse. Humankind is the most destructive thing to strike earth and it does so time and time again.
Follow this Greenpeace link to email the Russian embassy demanding the release of the Arctic 30.