Three more of the 30 Greenpeace activists arrested by Russian authorities have been granted bail by a Russian court. This brings the total number of activists granted bail to twenty from those arrested. The 30 activists had been arrested in September off the coast of Russia as they were protesting offshore drilling. They were charged with piracy. The piracy charges were later dropped and replaced with hooliganism charges which carry a maximum of 7 years imprisonment as opposed to 15 years for piracy.
Greenpeace has over the years been an advocate for a safer environment. They came into prominence in the early 1970’s and have their headquarters in the Netherlands with offices in over 40 countries. They speak out against what they see as wrong use of the planet’s natural resources and activities that enhance global warming. Their activists have also been advocates against many oil drilling practices.
The activists arrested were on one of such protests aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise when they were rounded up by Russian forces. They had tried to take control of a Russian oil platform when they were accosted and had the piracy charges filed against them. Russian President Vladimir Putin had stated then that the piracy charges were not viable, but he insisted they were not fully innocent as they should not have tried to capture the oil platform in the first place. Mikhail Kreindlin, consul for Greenpeace Russia had said the charges were unlawful.
“We consider these charges to be absurd, unsupported and unlawful. The charges should be presented only when there is an event of crime. We think there is no crime, at least not the one with which they are charged – piracy. According to the Russian criminal code, piracy is an armed attack on a vessel with a target to seize somebody’s property,” he said.
The news of the Greenpeace activists’ release on bail comes as a welcome development, even if only temporary, to the families of the activists and the international community as well. Both groups have continually mounted pressure on the Russian authorities to effect their release. Just this week, Ban Ki-Moon had appealed to Moscow to show some leniency dealing with the case.
Giving details regarding the bail arrangement, lawyer to one of the released activists Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel, a Brazilian, says she would be free to move around the city of Saint Petersburg but she will not be leaving the country “before the situation is cleared up.” The bail has been set at 61,500 dollars which is equivalent to 2 million Rubles in the local currency.
Russia hosts the upcoming winter Olympics next winter. For the sake of positive PR, release of the Greenpeace activists should be high on the Russian agenda. Releasing them on bail might be a good start to what could be seen as a way of keeping negative publicity at bay.
Editorial By Olajide Jatto