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Australia presses Russia over detained Greenpeace activist

The Australian Foreign Minister expressed concern to Russia about an Australian crew member of a Greenpeace ship facing a “very serious” piracy charge over an arctic oil exploration protest.

One of 30 activists from the Arctic Sunrise ship who were detained in Russia and are facing the charge, which can carry a lengthy jail term, after last month’s protest.

Bishop reported having discussed Australia’s concern over the matter during talks with the Russian deputy foreign minister on the margins of the Economic Cooperation.

She said she had asked the minister “that Russian authorities accord due legal process”, adding that Australia was investigating whether the “serious charge” was appropriate.

And added that she is seeking advice on the details. She understands they were charged under Russian law, but they seek advice on whether these charges are appropriate.

In Russia, piracy by an organized group is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Australian consular officials add that the conditions of detention are appropriate.

A prisoner rights activist told AFP that detainees complained about cold cells, fellow inmates smoking at one go, and difficulty communicating with guards, almost none of whom speak English.

In the protest saw several activists scale an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom in the Barents Sea to denounce Russia’s plans to drill in the Arctic.

Russian border guards lowered the helicopter onto the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise, locked up the crew, and towed the ship to Murmansk, nearly 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) north of Moscow.

Russian investigators charged all 30 crew members with piracy over the protest. They accused the activists of trying to seize property with threats of violence.

Greenpeace denies that the crew members – who come from 18 different countries have committed any crime.

Lawyers for the 30, who are being held in Murmansk and the nearby town of Apatity, have filed appeals against the decision to hold them in detention.
The Netherlands said that had started legal action to free the crew members.

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