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Greenpeace to appeal activists' jailing in Russia

September 27, 2013
Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — Greenpeace says it will appeal the Russian court rulings that sent its activists to jail for a protest near an oil platform in the Arctic.

On Thursday, the court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk jailed 28 Greenpeace activists who protested last week near the platform owned by the Russian state energy giant, Gazprom, along with a freelance Russian photographer and a freelance British videographer.

The environmental group said in a statement Friday it will appeal and is seeking the crew's immediate release.

"These detentions are like the Russian oil industry itself, a relic from an earlier era," Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement. "Our peaceful activists are in prison tonight for shining a light on Gazprom's recklessness."

Of the 30 people jailed by court, 22 were put in custody for two months pending an official probe and the remaining eight were detained for three days pending a new hearing.

No charges have been brought against any of the activists. Russian authorities are looking into whether they could be charged with piracy, among other offenses.

The Russian Coast Guard disrupted an attempt by the activists on Sept. 18 to scale the oil platform. The next day, Russian authorities seized Greenpeace's ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it with the crew aboard to Murmansk.

Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov described the arrest as "the most aggressive and hostile act against Greenpeace since the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior ship."

Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French government agents in New Zealand in 1985, killing one man.

The detained activists are from 18 countries, including Russia, and a long detention or series of trials could draw unwelcome international attention to Russia's tough policy against protests.

Greenpeace Russia's lawyer Anton Beneslavsky rejected Gazprom's claims that activists could have caused damage to the platform.

"If one activist hanging on the rope from the platform could have damaged it, then such a platform should not operate on the Arctic shelf," he told a news conference Friday.

Beneslavsky also referred to Greenpeace's protest outside the Prirazlomnaya last August when six activists spent several hours hanging off the side of the platform attached to the rig's mooring. Back then, coast guards "did not react at all to what happened," Beneslavsky said. The activists were not detained and did not face any charges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week he did not think the activists were pirates but defended their detention, saying that coast guards had no way of knowing who they were.

Reporters Without Borders on Thursday protested the jailing of freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov, saying his arrest was "an unacceptable violation of freedom of information." The top trans-Atlantic security and rights group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, also voiced demanded Sinyakov's immediate release.

Several Russian media outlets including the country's private TV station, NTV, took all pictures off their websites in a show of solidarity with the jailed photographer.

The platform, which belongs to Gazprom's oil subsidiary, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.


Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report.



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