Greenpeace Activists toTransfer to St. Petersburg
Greenpeace defenders of the Arctic kept in cold, stark conditions
The 30 environmental activists were detained September 18th. They were attempting to hang a banner on the Russian oil drill rig in the Arctic Ocean. The Greenpeace members were protesting the exploiting of the Arctic for petroleum extraction.
Their ship was also impounded. The Arctic Sunrise was in international waters when it was boarded by Russian troops according to the Greenpeace organization.
The 30 people have been held in remand cells in Murmansk, a Russian city above the Arctic Circle. They were originally charged with piracy, a charge that even President Putin scoffed at. Now they are informed that the charges will be hooliganism. While that sounds like a misdemeanor in the west, in Russia it carries a maximum sentence of seven years. (You may remember the Pussy Riot young women who were sentenced to years of hard labour under the same charge.)
There is now some confusion as to whether the piracy charges are actually dropped. Wednesday it was announced that the piracy charges would be dropped, but the activists’ legal help has received no official notice of it as of Friday.
The transfer to a St. Petersburg jail may make it easier for consular officials to consult with the detainees. It also raises questions about their treatment when they are in a jail. Many are calling for immediate release of the activists, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron who spoke out on the issue in the House of Commons.
"I will look at every single intervention I could possibly make in order to help and if contact directly with President Putin would be helpful, then that is certainly something I would be prepared to consider." The Guardian
Two of the 30 environmentalists are Canadian citizens. Prime Minister Harper is very busy with the Senate scandal and a Conservative convention in Calgary.
For ongoing updates on the situation as well as relevant videos, go to the Greenpeace site.