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Swiss Greenpeace activist hits out at detention conditions

One of the 30 Greenpeace activists held in Russia for scaling an oil rig to protest Arctic drilling complained in a letter published Sunday that he was being kept in isolation in a cold cell.

“The solitude is weighing on me and I am miserable,” Marco Weber said in a letter published by Swiss weeklies SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche.

But Weber said he did not regret taking part in the protest at a Gazprom platform on September 18.

In the letter, written before Russian prosecutors last week reduced the charges against the activists from piracy to hooliganism, the 28-year-old member of the Swiss Greenpeace climbing team said he had been held in isolation for 24 days.

“The situation is hard to take… The days are long,” he wrote.

The activists are being held in pre-trial detention until November 24 in the northern Russian region of Murmansk.

Weber said he had to remain huddled up in his winter jacket to try to keep warm in the unheated cell.

His feet were cold, he said, adding that he found his daily exercise break “degrading”.

“I walk around alone in a closed-off space measuring four by five metres (13 x 16 feet), with concrete floors and walls and no windows, no natural light,” he said, adding that the space was “dirty and humid”.

Weber said he had no contact with the outside world besides regular visits from the Swiss consul.

But he said he was “sure he did the right thing” in joining the protest.

“Sometimes, you have to help put things in motion. I am convinced that the joint and peaceful commitment of many courageous individuals concerned about the consequences of Arctic energy production can help protect this fragile region,” he said.

Under the new hooliganism charge the Greenpeace activists could each face a maximum sentence of seven years in a penal colony.