Piracy Charges Could Mean 15-Year Sentences for Greenpeace Activists

Search form

Piracy Charges Could Mean 15-Year Sentences for Greenpeace Activists

Piracy Charges Could Mean 15-Year Sentences for Greenpeace Activists
Fri, 10/4/2013 - by Steve Gutterman
This article originally appeared on Reuters

Russia charged Greenpeace activists with piracy on Wednesday over a demonstration last month against Arctic oil drilling, a charge that could bring long prison terms for a protest in a region the Kremlin sees as a key to future prosperity.

The federal Investigative Committee said authorities had begun charging the 30 people from 18 countries arrested after two Greenpeace activists tried to scale the Prirazlomnaya oil platform, which plays a crucial role in Russia's effort to mine Arctic resources.

By evening, 14 people had been charged with piracy, Greenpeace said, including activists and icebreaking ship crew from Argentina, Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, as well as a dual U.S.-Swedish citizen and a British videographer who documented the protest.

Greenpeace said the piracy charge, which carries a jail term of up to 15 years, was absurd. "It is an extreme and disproportionate charge," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.

"A charge of piracy is being laid against men and women whose only crime is to be possessed of a conscience. This is an outrage and represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest."

Talking tough, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said concern for the environment did not justify breaking the law.

"Concern for the environment must not be a cloak for illegal actions, no matter how high-minded the principles motivating participants," he said at a meeting on offshore oil extraction in the Caspian Sea in the southern city of Astrakhan.

A court in the northern city of Murmansk, a port city north of the Arctic circle, last week ordered all 30 people who had been aboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise to be held in custody for two months pending further investigation.

The environmental group said the protest at the platform owned by state-controlled energy company Gazprom was peaceful and posed no threat, and that piracy charges have no merit in international or Russian law.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that a U.S. citizen named Dimitri Litvinov was among those charged with piracy. She said Washington understood that a second detained U.S. citizen has not been charged.

Harf made no comment on the charges. She said that the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg had met both of the detained U.S. citizens.

Fearing Oil Spill

Prirazlomnaya, Russia's first offshore oil rig in the Arctic, is slated to start operating by the end of the year and is expected to reach peak production of 6 million tonnes per year (120,000 barrels per day) in 2019.

Greenpeace says scientific evidence shows any oil spill from Prirazlomnaya, in the Pechora Sea, would affect more than 3,000 miles of Russia's northern coastline.

Russia, whose slowing economy is heavily reliant on income from energy exports, hopes Arctic oil and gas will help fuel future growth. Putin, who has not ruled out seeking a fourth presidential term in 2018, has described Arctic shipping and development as priorities and last month announced plans to reopen a Soviet-era military base in the region.

Naidoo called Russia's treatment of the protesters "the most serious threat to Greenpeace's peaceful environmental activism" since its ship Rainbow Warrior was bombed and sunk while in port in New Zealand in 1985, when the group was protesting French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Former Rainbow Warrior captain Peter Willcox, an American, captained the Arctic Sunrise during the protest and was among the 30 people being held in detention in Murmansk.

President Vladimir Putin said last week that the protesters were clearly not pirates, but had violated international law.

Originally published by Reuters

Article Tabs

Despite propaganda from Big Ag, biotech and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, surveys show vast majority of residents in Washington, Oregon and Idaho want to know what's in their food.

When a journalist in a news article refers to a woman as “strident,” you know what you’re reading is a hit piece – and that's what the New York Times produced about Occupy Wall Street activist McMillan.

A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.

Reporting that CEOs in the U.K. earn 162 times more than the average worker, the High Pay Centre calls on government to put immediate caps on executive salaries.

On Monday, 80 protesters with Utah Tar Sands Resistance halted access to equipment where the company seeks to begin work on the first fuel-producing tar sands mine in the state.

In the 80s and 90s they called them "IMF Riots" – but what the biggest international investment organizations and consultants now see happening looks a whole lot bigger.

Posted 6 days 5 hours ago

Part 3: Chris Hedges interviewed Harvard professor and MayDay SuperPAC founder Lawrence Lessig about his plans to break the hold of big money on American elections.

Posted 6 days 5 hours ago

Patient details were shared with organizations including private health insurance companies, many based in the United States.

Posted 6 days 5 hours ago

The aggressive foreclosures and water shut-offs are a deliberate scheme to shock the population, drive long-time residents out of the city center, seize property and gentrify downtown Detroit and the waterfront.

Posted 6 days 5 hours ago

All over the world, publics are beginning to reject the privatization mantra – because the privatizers, it turns out, have a serious problem with their pitch.

Posted 6 days 5 hours ago

Fracking the 15 billion barrels of oil discovered in the Monterey Shale deposit will add 6.8 million tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere — delaying California's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act by 80 years.

According to figures released last week, 38% of the top-paid CEOs of U.S. companies over the past two decades were fired or headed companies that were either bailed out by taxpayers or forced to pay significant fraud-related fines.

Demanding that Detroit restore water to all residents and end the shutoffs, the People’s Water Board has called water a human right and a part of the commons – "held in the public trust free of privatization."

Politicians and activists want the city to wrest underwater mortgages from obstructionist investors and lenders and reset them at current market values – much like the strategy employed in Richmond, Calif.

Welcome to the Happiest Place on Earth: Anaheim, July 26.

This week in Occupy, the people of Anaheim continued their stand against a trigger-happy police force, Occupy activists got raided by the FBI, the NYPD was finally called out for its Occupy-related human rights abuses, and 13 years after he aggressively lobbied Congress to repeal Glass-Steagall, former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill said, “Just kidding!”

Sign Up