Russia on Wednesday dropped the piracy charges against 30 people involved in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling and replaced them with lesser charges of hooliganism. Greenpeace rejected the new charges as “wildly disproportionate”.
Russia’s main investigative agency dropped piracy charges against jailed Greenpeace activists on Wednesday and charged them instead with hooliganism, which means the detainees could still spend years in prison.
The Investigative Committee’s statement followed a comment by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said last month that he didn’t think that the Greenpeace activists were pirates.
Piracy is punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years, while the specific hooliganism charge being applied now carries up to seven years in prison.
Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia rejected the new charges and described them as “wildly disproportionate”, saying the activists “are no more hooligans than they were pirates”. He pointed out that Greenpeace had a 42-year history of peaceful protest.
“We will contest the trumped-up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations,” Chuprov said in a statement. “They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality.”
The Investigative Committee also warned that it could file additional charges against the Greenpeace activists, including violence against authorities. That charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
A group of 28 Greenpeace activists, a Russian photographer and a British videographer were detained by Russian authorities on September 18 when their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized by the coast guard after a protest outside a Gazprom-owned oil rig.
The Investigative Committee said that the detainees’ refusal to testify has impeded the inquiry. It dismissed Greenpeace’s claim that the protest was peaceful, saying it was a crime under international law to try to seize an oil rig.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-10-23