Spanish navy rammed Greenpeace boat to prevent "piracy," Defense Ministry says

Spanish navy rammed Greenpeace boat to prevent "piracy," Defense Ministry says
The Spanish Defense Ministry has justified the actions of the country’s navy, which rammed into a Greenpeace boat, injuring activists. The ministry believes the Navy had no other choice as they were preventing an act of “piracy.”

The Navy “did what it had to do” to prevent the environmentalist group from committing a “crime of piracy,” the Defense Ministry told Europa Press on Monday.

The officials were reacting to accusations of an “unjustified use of force” from Greenpeace in the wake of an incident on Saturday, when two inflated boats from the group’s Arctic Sunrise ship attempted to approach an oil drilling ship, Rowan Renaissance, off the Canary Islands.

A video of the incident posted on Youtube shows a Navy boat ramming several times into Greenpeace vessels, with the last in a row of attacks, right beside the drilling vessel, ending up in loud female screams.

Matilda Brunetti, a 23 year-old Italian Greenpeace activist, was thrown overboard in the collision. She had her leg broken in the incident and received cuts from a boat’s propeller. Three other members of the Greenpeace team received minor injuries.

Brunetti was rescued by a member of the Navy boat crew and flown to the hospital in the Canary Islands by helicopter.

The other activists returned safely to the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace Spain’s efforts to protect the Canary Islands from off shore oil drilling continue,” the environmentalist group said on Facebook.

The Navy argues the Greenpeace boats ignored several warnings urging them not to enter the so-called exclusion zone around the oil drilling ship, which extends for one maritime mile.

The operation was extensively covered by the Spanish Defense Ministry on Twitter, with officials stressing the fact that the injured activist was saved by the Navy and that the propellers of the patrol boat Relámpago, which participated in the operation, had special protection on them to prevent possible injuries.

Repsol, the Spanish energy company to which Rowan Renaissance belongs, has so far not commented on the incident.

The benefits from the drilling project seem not to be convincing enough for some Canary Islands residents and environmentalists, who fear possible oil spills.

The Canaries government sought to hold a referendum on oil exploration around the islands, but it was banned by Spain’s Constitutional Court, acting at the Madrid government’s request.

Greenpeace activists on board The Arctic Sunrise have been involved in other confrontations with law enforcement agents.

The most recent protests the ship participated in were against the Russian gas giant Gazprom’s drilling in the Arctic.

Six Greenpeace activists from the Arctic Sunrise were detained in May this year in the Dutch port of Ijmuiden for seizing a Gazprom oil rig platform in an attempt to prevent it from being deployed in the Arctic. They were charged with disobedience to police and were fined.

Screenshot from YouTube user Greenpeacespain


In September 2013, 30 Greenpeace activists from the Arctic Sunrise were detained in Russia, for an attempt to disrupt the operations of Gazprom’s Prirazlomanaya oil rig in the Arctic Sea.

The protesters, from a total of 18 countries, were initially taken into custody on charges of piracy, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail. However, they were granted bail through a Kremlin-backed amnesty after around two months in custody.