Greenpeace Head Offers Himself as Guarantor for Release of ‘Piracy’ Activists in Russia

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The head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin offering to stand as security for the release on bail of 30 people who have been charged with piracy by Russian authorities after they protested against drilling in the Arctic.

Naidoo sent Putin a letter after a Russian court on Tuesday refused bail to three of the detainees. In it he wrote: “I would offer myself as a guarantor for the good conduct of the Greenpeace activists, were they to be released on bail.”

He also said he would move to Russia for “the duration of the affair” and requested an urgent meeting with Putin. He added that Greenpeace and its activists do not see themselves above the law.

When Naidoo spoke with Bill Moyers last month about the detention of a Greenpeace ship and its crew in Russia, he said the worst-case scenario would be if the 30 activists and volunteers were charged with piracy.

Last week, Russian investigators did just that, charging the entire crew of a Greenpeace ship with piracy, which can lead to a 15-year prison sentence in Russia upon conviction.

Members of the media in a courtroom with Greenpeace freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov shown behind bars on a court video screen in Murmansk, Russia, on October 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Dmitri Sharomov, Greenpeace)

In reaction to the news, Naidoo said: “There can be no justification for the continued detention of activists who did nothing more than express their beliefs through entirely peaceful means.”

The crew have been in custody ever since Russian border guards took control of Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, in international waters last month.

They seized the ship and its crew after a number of Greenpeace’s activists scaled an oil platform operated by the Russian state energy giant Gazprom in protest of Russia’s plans to drill for fossil fuels in the fragile ecology of the Arctic.

“In being accused of piracy they are charged with a crime that did not happen,” he told Putin in the letter.

Earlier this week, Naidoo expressed concern for the conditions under which the crew are being held, saying that some are being held in solitary confinement. “At the very least they should be together at the same facility, they should be warm and they should have access to basic needs,” Naidoo said.

The remaining 27 cases requesting bail are expected to be heard later this week. The crew represent 18 countries, including the United States.

According to Greenpeace, over 1.1 million people throughout the world have sent emails to their Russian embassies and consulates demanding the immediate release of the crew members.

In this clip, Naidoo talks with Bill Moyers about the ongoing incident and his concerns for the crew.

Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. She has produced content for, NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International. She also helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women's entrepreneurship.
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