Greenpeace International [advocacy website] announced on Tuesday that Russian authorities dropped criminal charges against the first of 30 people accused of taking part in a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic. The 30 jailed activists were accused of hooliganism after they staged a protest on an Arctic oil rig in September. Their release [BBC report] follows the passage of sweeping amnesty laws [414081-6, 414076-6, 414060-6, 414142-6, texts, PDF, in Russian] last week that are expected to bring the release of some 20,000 people. Greenpeace's brief announcement posted on their website states:
Legal proceedings against the Arctic 30 can come to a close after the Russian parliament agreed to include them in an amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of the country's constitution. The Duma voted for an amendment that extends an amnesty decree to defendants who have been charged with hooliganism. They took peaceful action on behalf of us all, standing up against destructive Arctic oil drilling and the onslaught of climate change.UK national Anthony Perrett today became the first Arctic 30 activist to have the criminal case against him dropped and has already requested an exit visa from Russia. The other foreign activists must also await exit visas before they are permitted to leave the country.
Last month a Russian court granted bail to Australian Colin Russell, one of the 30 Greenpeace International crew members detained. Also last month, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) [official website] ordered the release [JURIST report] of the Arctic Sunrise as well as the release of the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were arrested on board the ship, upon payment of a 3.6 million euro bond by the Netherlands. The Greenpeace activists were staging a protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Russian fixed gas platform, where they were arrested and charged with piracy [JURIST report]. Upon payment of the bond, the detainees and the Arctic Sunrise will be allowed to leave Russia's territory and maritime areas for the first time since their initial detention at the end of September. Although 29 of the 30 who were detained in connection with the Arctic Sunrise have been granted bail by Russian courts, Greenpeace welcomed the ITLOS ruling [press release], stating "it is time for the Arctic 30 to come home to their loved ones." Russia's treatment of the activists has drawn criticism [press release] from rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], as well as from other countries.