Dutch sue Russia to recover 'pirate' Greenpeace crew
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The Netherlands said on Friday that it had launched legal action against Russia to secure the release of the Greenpeace activists charged with piracy. The activist staged a protest at an offshore oil platform in the Arctic.
"The Netherlands, as the state under whose flag the Arctic Sunrise sails, today started an arbitration process on the basis of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea... against what it sees as the unlawful detention of the ship (and) to have it released and its crew freed," Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a letter in parliament.
Russian investigators said on Thursday they have charged all Arctic Sunrise crew members with piracy, an offence that carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years in Russia.
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 last month.
Timmermans wrote that if there was no progress in the next two weeks, the Netherlands could take their case to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which makes rulings relating to the convention.
Investigators accused the activists of trying to seize property with threats of violence.
Greenpeace denies the crew members -- who come from 18 different countries including Britain, Russia, New Zealand, Canada and France -- committed any crime.
"Russian officials will now be called to explain their actions before an international court of law, where they will be unable to justify these absurd piracy allegations," Greenpeace International's General Counsel Jasper Teulings said in a statement sent to AFP.
A five-member arbitral tribunal will now be set up, and the Netherlands can ask for the immediate release of the ship and crew as a provisional measure, Greenpeace said.
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 kilometres north of Moscow.