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8 Oct, 2013 15:19

3 Russian Arctic Sunrise activists to remain in jail – court

3 Russian Arctic Sunrise activists to remain in jail – court

A court in Murmansk has turned down an appeal against the continued detention of three Russians who were among 30 Greenpeace activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise, charged with piracy following their protest at Gazprom’s oil platform in September.

The Murmansk regional court ruled Tuesday that Greenpeace press officer Andrey Allakhverdov, the ship’s doctor, Yekaterina Zaspa, and professional photographer Denis Sinyakov would remain in custody until Nov. 24. 

The judge backed investigators’ and prosecutors’ request for the activists to be denied bail, fearing that they could go back to their “criminal activities,” abscond or try to influence the investigation process.

Sinyakov denied any wrongdoing, telling the judge that he was onboard the Arctic Sunrise as a journalist, RAPSI agency reported. He said that he could not influence the decisions of the captain and therefore could not be connected to any acts of piracy. 

Restriction of my freedom endangers my family,” he added, referring to the fact that his wife was not working.

An administrative case has been brought against the Arctic Sunrise’s captain, Peter Willcox, over his alleged refusal to obey orders from the Russian Coast Guard, Interfax reported.

Greenpeace activist Yekaterina Zaspa, charged with an attempted trespassing on Prirazlomnaya rig, is seen here as Murmansk Region Court considered an appeal against her arrest (picture taken from the monitor in the courtroom). (RIA Novosti/Maksim Zharavin)

On Sept. 18, Greenpeace’s vessel Arctic Sunrise, flying a Dutch flag, approached Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil rig in the Barents Sea. A number of crewmembers, using inflatable dinghies, got close to the platform and attempted to board it to stage a protest against drilling for oil in the Arctic.

The following day, Russian border guards took over the Arctic Sunrise and towed it to the northern port of Murmansk with the activists on board. All 30 crewmembers, from 18 different countries, were put in pre-trial detention and charged with piracy, a crime that can carry a penalty of up to 15 years behind bars.

The arrest of Sinyakov stirred a particular outcry in the media and among human rights activists, since the photographer, who has worked for many international news agencies, was contracted by Greenpeace to cover the Arctic Sunrise voyage. He also had an assignment for the story from a Russian news outlet. 

On Monday, Greenpeace said would contest the activists’ arrest in the European Court of Human Rights if the Murmansk court rejected the appeals, RIA Novosti reported.

Greenpeace lawyer Sergey Golubok also complained about the conditions that the suspects are kept in while in custody. Many have “problems with access to drinking water,” he said. Some activists also have health problems as well as difficulties with communicating with prison guards in Russian. The suspects’ lawyers asked the court to replace custody with house arrest.

Greenpeace activist Andrey Allakhverdov, charged with an attempted trespassing on Prirazlomnaya rig, is seen here as Murmansk Region Court considered an appeal against his arrest (picture taken from the monitor in the courtroom). (RIA Novosti/ Konstantin Chalabov)

The environmental group denounced the piracy accusations as “absurd,” saying its protest in the Barents Sea was purely peaceful. Greenpeace have staged worldwide protests against the detentions and so far have gathered 1 million signatures demanding the release of the “Arctic 30.”

Russian officials say Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship, registered in the Netherlands, has repeatedly violated Russian laws since August 2012, sources told RT. The Russian Transport Ministry contacted the Dutch government regarding the vessel’s provocative actions in the Arctic last December, but has so far received no response. 

In August, the Russian Embassy in The Hague warned the Dutch Foreign Ministry that the Arctic Sunrise’s voyages along the Northern Sea Route without Russian permission were unacceptable. These warnings were ignored, RT sources said.