23 October 2013, News Wires – Russia has dropped charges of piracy against 30 detained Greenpeace activists connected to a protest against Arctic drilling and replaced it with a lesser charge of hooliganism, the environmental group confirmed.
But Greenpeace is still determined to contest the current charges, which the group called just as much a “fantasy… that bear(s) no relation to reality” as the previous piracy allegations.
“The Arctic 30 are no more hooligans than they were pirates,” Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said in a statement. “This is still a wildly disproportionate charge… It represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.”
The charges of hooliganism carry with them a possible sentence of seven years in prison. The piracy charges came with a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.
“We will contest the trumped up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations,” Chuprov said.
Russian forces detained 28 protesters and two freelancers on board Greenpeace’s Netherlands-flagged vessel Arctic Sunrise in the Pechora Sea last month following a failed attempt to scale a Gazprom Neft Shelf-operated drilling platform.
Russia has denied bail applications for every detainee that has applied so far. Swedish-US citizen Dimitri Litvinov became the 26th of 26 activists to apply for bail and be denied on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Russia said it would not attend an international tribunal and refused to accept an arbitration process brought against it by the Netherlands, which has deemed the detentions illegal.
The country did indicate, however, that it “remains open to settling the situation”.
Greenpeace maintains that its 30 detained activists are guilty of nothing more than a “desire to shine a light on a reckless business”.