Greenpeace activists still face long prison sentence after change of charges

Greenpeace said that the new charges of hooliganism change nothing and that the organisation will continue in its quest to free 30 activists

The Russian government has dropped the piracy charges against the 30 Greenpeace activists who have been held in a Murmansk prison since September 19 after a failed attempt to board a Gazprom oil rig in the Arctic Ocean.

Instead, Danish citizen Anne Mie Roer Jensen and the 29 other activists now face charges of hooliganism, which can carry a punishment of up to seven years in prison.

"The actions of those involved in the criminal case have been reclassified to the charge of hooliganism," the spokesperson for the Russian government, Vladimir Markin, told the RIA Novosti news agency. 

READ MORE: Danish Greenpeace activist charged with piracy

Changes nothing
But despite the lesser charges, Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said that the new charges change nothing.

“The Arctic 30 are no more hooligans than they were pirates. This is still a wildly disproportionate charge that carries up to seven years in jail. It represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest,” Chuprov said in a Greenpeace press release.

Chuprov went on to say that some of the activists could be charged with the use of force against officials, a charge that carries up to ten years in prison.

“We will contest the trumped-up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations. They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality," he said. "The Arctic 30 protested peacefully against Gazprom's dangerous oil drilling and should be free."

EU needs to get involved
Dan Jørgensen (S), a European Parliament member, agreed with Chuprov, stating that the activists were not pirates, hooligans of criminals of any sort.

”The punishment is still very severe and I see this case as an example of Russia playing tricks with Europe,” Jørgensen said, according to Politiken newspaper. “The charges are still far too serious.”

Jørgensen spoke yesterday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where the case was being discussed. MEPs from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Denmark urged the EU Minister Council and the EU Commissioner to get involved.

“The attitude of the parliament in this case was very unanimous, and if the EU Council and the EU Commission think that they can hide in this case, they are very much mistaken,” Jørgensen said.

READ MORE: No diplomatic pressure to release Greenpeace activist in Russia

Denied bail
Denmark has been criticised on the diplomatic level for not supporting the legal proceedings against Russia that have been initiated by the Netherlands in order to free the Greenpeace activists and their ship.

The new charges come a week after the activists were denied bail and were forced to remain in prison on charges of piracy, a charge that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison

The 30 activists come from 18 different countries: Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, the US, Canada, Great Britain, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, New Zealand, Ukraine, France, Finland, Poland, Switzerland, Australia and Russia.

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