Greenpeace British activist wrongly held in cell with Russian suspects: rights group

29th September 2013, Comments 0 comments

A British crew member of a Greenpeace ship involved in an open-sea protest against Arctic oil drilling has been placed in a cell with Russians accused of robbery, in violation of the law, a rights activist said.

Russia last week detained all 30 crew members of Greenpeace's icebreaker the Arctic Sunrise on suspicion of piracy over a protest near Gazprom's oil rig on September 18.

Twenty three crew members have already been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for two months, and a court on Sunday was hearing the cases of the other seven activists.

Fourteen of the 22 detained are being held in a pre-trial detention centre in Murmansk, a city above the Arctic Circle located nearly 2,000 kilometres north of Moscow.

The other eight have been transferred to Apatity, a city on the Kola Peninsula located 185 kilometres south of Murmansk.

In violation of the law according to which foreign suspects should be held separately from Russian nationals, a British activist is being held with two Russians suspected of robbery, said Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoner rights watchdog.

"That is a violation," she told AFP. Other activists are likely to get bunk mates from ex-Soviet countries because keeping suspects by themselves would also be a violation of the law.

"That's a legal collision," Paikacheva said.

She noted that according to Russian law, the Greenpeace activists cannot be held together because they have all been detained on the same charges.

One of the detained activists suffers from asthma and steps are being taken to ensure his good health, she said.

Overall, the activists are being held in "satisfactory conditions," said Paikacheva.

"The food is decent," she added. "The cells are rather spacious."

The detention centres where suspects are held before trial in Russia are called Investigative Isolators (SIZO) and do not differ much from common Russian jails notorious for their filthy conditions and prisoner abuse.

Greenpeace representative Andrei Petrov told AFP that detention conditions in Apatity were considered to be worse than those in Murmansk.

© 2013 AFP

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