Russia bails more Greenpeace activists, including captain

20th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

A Russian court on Wednesday granted bail to three more Greenpeace campaigners detained for a protest in the Arctic, including the US citizen who was the captain of its campaign ship.

The granting of bail for veteran captain Peter Willcox, Dutch citizen Faiza Oulahsen and Britain's Alexandra Harris brought to 15 the number set to be released on bail in a case that has raised global concern.

Russia had held 30 crew members of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise ship since September after activists scaled an oil rig in the Barents Sea owned by energy giant Gazprom to protest against oil prospecting.

Greenpeace confirmed the granting of bail to the three crew members in hearings on extending their pre-trial detention in Saint Petersburg. Twelve activists had already been granted bail on Monday and Tuesday.

The crew members' detention caused an international outcry, with stars including Madonna and Paul McCartney and politicians such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for their release.

Willcox is one of Greenpeace's most experienced activists who was also the captain of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship blown up by the French foreign intelligence service in 1985.

Oulahsen appeared in court with the slogan "Save the Arctic' written on her palm and hugged a friend through the bars of her cage.

In a video message released by Greenpeace from the courtroom, she said: "To all the supporters out there calling for our release, thank you so much, you gave us hope, you gave us strength."

Greenpeace quoted Alexandra Harris as saying: "Every day in prison for me is connected with the struggle."

Those released by courts in Saint Petersburg -- in a move that surprised some -- are unlikely to immediately be able to go home. They still face trial on hooliganism charges that risk seven years in jail.

They could be detained under house arrest or made to sign undertakings not to leave the city before the trial.

Those granted bail remain under arrest until the bail money is transferred. Greenpeace has said it will supply the bail payments of 2 million rubles ($61,400) for each activist.

Greenpeace International on Wednesday it has already posted bail for nine of the Arctic 30, but does not expect them to be released before the weekend and cautioned their future status was unclear.

"It is still not clear whether their movements will then be restricted. None of them have passports after they were confiscated," Greenpeace said.

Of the activists to have so far appeared before the court, only one has been ordered to stay in detention pending trial.

A court on Monday ordered Australian activist Colin Russell, 59, who acted as the ship's radio operator, to remain in pre-trial detention until February 24, a day after the end of the Sochi Winter Games.

Greenpeace has said it was "baffled" as to why he was being treated more harshly than the others. Australia's ambassador to Moscow Paul Myler said he was going to the Russian foreign ministry Wednesday to seek an explanation.

© 2013 AFP

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