MOSCOW: Russian investigators said on Thursday (Friday in Manila) they had charged all 30-crew members of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship with piracy over a protest against Arctic oil exploration, an offense that carries the risk of a lengthy prison term.
A court in the northern city of Murmansk last week detained the crew members including freelance journalists for two months pending an investigation into their protest on an oil platform owned by energy giant Gazprom.
“All 30 participants in the criminal case have been charged over the attack on the Prirazlomnaya platform,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
“They are all charged with . . . piracy committed by an organized group.”
Piracy by an organized group carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years in Russia.
Investigators accused the activists of trying to seize property with threats of violence.
The first 14 activists were charged on Wednesday and the rest indicted Thursday.
Greenpeace denies the crew-members—who come from 18 different countries including Britain, Russia, New Zealand, Canada and France—committed any crime.
“Our activists have been charged with a crime that did not happen,” Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
“A profound injustice is right now being perpetrated against our friends, our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who sit in Russian jails.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has met with Greenpeace executive director John Sauven to discuss “the arrest of six British nationals,” his office said on Thursday.
Hague last week raised the issue with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, it said.
“We would remain in close contact with all other nations whose citizens were involved,” Hague was quoted as saying.
The September 18 protest saw several activists scale the oil platform in the Barents Sea to denounce Russia’s plans to drill in the Arctic.
Russian border guards then lowered themselves onto the Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise from a helicopter, locked up the crew and towed the ship to Murmansk located nearly 2,000 kilometers north of Moscow.