A number of Greenpeace activists and a photographer accompanying them have been remanded in pre-trial custody by a Russian court after a criminal case was opened for suspected piracy.
The campaigners could face 15 years in jail if convicted over the protest they staged at Russia’s first offshore oil platform in the Arctic.
In an ongoing hearing, at least 11 people have been detained for up to two months. Some 30 people are appearing in total. The campaigners come from 18 different countries.
From the defendant’s cage in the courtroom, one Russian activist, Roman Dolgov, insisted that the charges were unfounded. Dolgov, who faces two months in custody, told reporters that Greenpeace “is a peaceful, non violent organisation, which no one in the world has classified as criminal or terrorist or extremist.”
The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was seized and the arrests made after two activists tried to scale the rig to protest at plans to drill for oil – something which Greenpeace says would threaten the Arctic’s fragile eco-system.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the activists had violated international law but he signalled that they should not, in fact, face piracy charges.