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Russia grants bail to more Greenpeace activists

20 November 2013, 18:34

St Petersburg - A Russian court on Wednesday granted bail to five more Greenpeace campaigners held over a protest in the Arctic, bringing to 17 the number of activists set to leave jail after two months behind bars.

The bail decision, including for the US captain of Greenpeace's campaign ship, has raised cautious hopes for the activists in a case that has caused global concern. But they still face grave charges that could see them jailed for several years.

The latest crewmembers of the Arctic Sunrise granted bail by courts in Saint Petersburg were British video journalist Kieron Bryan and Dutch citizen Mannes Ubels.

Bryan told the court: "I was simply there to observe, document and report as I always do in my job and had absolutely no interest or participation in any organisation" in a video released by Greenpeace.

Earlier courts in Saint Petersburg - who were considering whether to extend their detention by another three months - granted bail to the veteran US captain Peter Willcox, Dutch citizen Faiza Oulahsen and Britain's Alexandra Harris.

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 bailing of the crewmembers on Twitter. Twelve activists had already been granted bail on Monday and Tuesday. All are still in detention pending the transfer of the bail funds.

The crewmembers' 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 its Rainbow Warrior ship blown up by the French foreign intelligence service in 1985.

'I'm going to enjoy fresh air'

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 released by Greenpeace from the courtroom, she said: "I'm going to enjoy the fact that I can walk more than just three yards in the cell and some fresh air."

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

Those released by courts in Saint Petersburg are unlikely to immediately be able to go home. They still face trial on hooliganism charges that carry up to 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 funds are transferred. Greenpeace has said it will supply the bail payments of 2 million rubles ($61 400) for each activist.

Greenpeace International on Wednesday said 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.



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