Russia eases charges against Greenpeace activists

MOSCOW — Piracy charges against 30 people who were aboard a Greenpeace ship protesting Arctic drilling have been reduced by Russian authorities to hooliganism, the head of the Investigative Committee announced Wednesday.

The Russian coast guard seized the Arctic Sunrise after two activists attempted to climb onto an oil rig in the Pechora Sea on Sept. 19 and later towed the ship to Murmansk. Greenpeace said the protesters expected to face perhaps 15 days in Russian custody, but investigators charged all of those on board with piracy — which carries a 15-year sentence — and the courts refused to grant bail.

The action made global headlines and has roiled relations between Russia and the Netherlands. The Arctic Sunrise was sailing under a Dutch flag, and the Netherlands protested what it said was an illegal seizure in international waters.

The incident marks the stiffest crackdown on Greenpeace since French intelligence agents sank the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.

Even President Vladimir Putin, who criticized the protest, said it was clear it did not amount to piracy. But, day after day, defendant after defendant has appeared in the Murmansk courtroom over the past month, and they’ve all been sent back to their cells to face trial.

Now, charged instead with hooliganism, they face maximum sentences of seven years, although conviction usually brings much milder punishment.

“The Arctic 30 are no more hooligans than they were pirates,” a statement issued by Greenpeace said. “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. The Arctic 30 protested peacefully against Gazprom’s dangerous oil drilling and should be free.”

The 30 defendants hail from 18 countries. Two, Capt. Peter Willcox and Dima Litvinov, are Americans. Greenpeace says all 30 have been held separately in the Murmansk jail and have had difficulty asking for supplies because they don’t speak Russian. All have reportedly been visited by consular officials from their respective countries.

The investigators’ move came just hours after the Foreign Ministry announced that Russia would not take part in a tribunal on the ship’s seizure requested by the Dutch government under the provisions of the International Law of the Sea, which Russia ratified in 1997. The ministry statement says that Russia does not recognize the authority of the tribunal in cases involving sovereignty.

Greenpeace and its allies have noted that the ship, though in Russia’s economic exclusion zone, was not in Russian territory, and that the convention does not permit signatories to exempt themselves from its provisions.

More in Local News

Army nurse from Everett has vivid memories of ‘forgotten war’

Barbara Jean Nichols, 95, served near the front lines in Korea and Vietnam, and in Germany.

In county overdose crisis, nasal spray has saved 100 lives

About 900 local law enforcement officers have been trained to use naloxone to revive opioid users.

Edmonds to add bike lanes in two areas

Crews will begin the first phase of work Thursday and Friday, weather permitting.

Woman fatally shot at home near Everett

Another woman and three children, who were also in the home, were not injured.

Serial killer wannabe admits trying to kill man she met online

She told police she planned to rip out her victim’s heart and eat it — and would continue killing.

Woman injured after losing control of her pickup

A 50-year-old woman was injured Tuesday after her pickup lost… Continue reading

Boy stuck in child care instead of going to school

District says it can no longer provide transportation for the special-needs student.

Hurry! Target will take your old car seat, but not for long

The seats will be taken apart and the various materials recycled.

Sheriff’s Office receives national recognition

Sheriff accepts award “notable achievements in the field of highway safety” over the past year.

Most Read