Danish Greenpeace activist charged with piracy

Greenpeace accuses the Russian government of overreacting after it charges activists with piracy after they attempted to board a Gazprom oil rig

A protest action against oil drilling in the sensitive Arctic Ocean may have serious consequences for a Danish activist.

Anne Mie Roer Jensen was charged with piracy this morning, joining 14 other activists who face the same charge in a court in Murmansk. Piracy carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

“The piracy charges are a blow to the peaceful protestors and the civil disobedience that Greenpeace has practised in its fight for the Arctic over the past four decades,” Greenpeace spokesperson Jon Burgwald stated in a press release.

Arrested by Special Forces
Jensen was a crew member aboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise that carried activists who tried to board a Gazprom oil rig on September 19.

Armed Russian Special Forces boarded the Greenpeace vessel via helicopter and detained the 30 activists, crew members and photographers derived from 19 different countries.

The boat was towed to Murmansk where the 30 remain under arrest.

Russian overreaction
The charges of piracy have shocked Greenpeace, which is accusing the Russian government of overreacting.

 “It’s deeply tragic that the crew of the Arctic Sunrise and their relatives have become victims of a complete lack of respect for the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Burgwald said.

READ MORE: Greenpeace activists invade Shell oil refinery

“Thirty people sailed to Russia with the goal of peacefully protesting against Gazprom’s devastating drilling for oil in the Arctic," Burgwald continued. "Instead of backing up Gazprom and attacking the activists, the authorities ought to listen to the many critics who argue that the piracy charges don’t hold water.”

Support for activists
The former foreign minister, Per Stig Møller (Konservative), has spoken out in support of the activists.

“It is unreasonable to call a demonstration piracy,” Stig Møller stated in a press release. “I expect the Foreign Ministry to do everything possible to help the Danish environmental activist. Regardless of what the government thinks of Greenpeace, the organisation is working peacefully to highlight environmental problems.”

Russians support crackdown
While Greenpeace also quotes Russian President Vladimir Putin as saying that the activists “are clearly not pirates”, a majority of Russians approve of the heavy-handed treatment.

Interfax reports that 66 percent of Russians agree that activists should be stopped if they try to interfere with Russia’s oil ambitions in the Arctic Ocean.

Only 17 percent responded that the Russian response to the Greenpeace action was too harsh.