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Dutch call for tribunal to free Greenpeace activists

Photo: AFP

The Netherlands on Monday asked a world maritime tribunal to order Russia to free the crew of the Greenpeace activist ship Arctic Sunrise, who have been held on piracy charges since being seized by the Russian coast guard on September 17.

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The Netherlands has asked an international maritime tribunal to order Russia to free the crew of a Greenpeace activist ship who are being held by authorities on charges of piracy.

The request was made on Monday to the German-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, the Dutch government said.

"The (Dutch) state is asking for the freeing of the detained crew and the release of the Greenpeace ship," it said in a statement.

"Because the Netherlands find that the ship's release and the freeing of the crew is an urgent matter, it has now decided on this step."

A group of 28 Greenpeace activists and two journalists have been held since their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, was seized by the Russian coast guard after a protest outside a Gazprom-owned oil rig in Arctic waters on September 18.

The activists, from 18 different countries, have been placed in pre-trial detention until late November in the northern Russian city of Murmansk.

They could face prison sentences of up to 15 years if found guilty.

Last week, a Murmansk court rejected several bail requests, ignoring a worldwide campaign to have the piracy charges dropped.

The Netherlands is taking action because the Arctic Sunrise sails under a Dutch flag.

The Dutch government said it expected a hearing to take place before the tribunal within the next two to three weeks.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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