Greenpeace to appeal jailing of its activists

Sep 27, 2013, 5:05 AM EDT
A police officers guards the US captain of the Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise', Peter Willcox in a court room in Murmansk, Russia, on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

MOSCOW (AP) — Environmental group Greenpeace said Friday it will appeal against the rulings of a Russian court that led to the jailing of its activists for a protest near an oil platform in the Arctic.

On Thursday, the court in the 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. Greenpeace said in a statement Friday that 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. The Arctic is melting before our eyes, and these brave activists stand in defiance of those who wish to exploit this unfolding crisis to drill for more oil."

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 anyone in the group. 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 platform. The next day, Russian authorities seized Greenpeace's ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it with the crew aboard to Murmansk.

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.

Reporters Without Borders on Thursday protested the jailing of freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov who is a contributor to various international and Russian media outlets, 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 concern and 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 earlier this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.

The Arctic Sunrise sails under the Dutch flag. Greenpeace lawyer Daniel Simons said that the group had appealed to the Netherlands to negotiate the team's release.


Vladimir Isachenkov contributed to this report.