Russian court orders detention of 22 Greenpeace activists

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Moscow, Sept 27: A Russian court has ordered that 22 of the 30 Greenpeace activists detained in Arctic waters last week after trying to chain themselves to an oil platform be held in custody for two months pending a piracy investigation.

The court in the northwestern Russian port city of Murmansk said Friday it had ordered that Argentines Miguel Hernan Perez Orz and Camila Speziale, as well as citizens from Russia, France, Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Australia, the United States and Italy, be held in preventive detention.

The judges considered the suspects a flight risk due to the seriousness of the allegations, while they justified holding the Russian activists because they do not have a permanent residence in Murmansk.

The other eight members of Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, which was seized by Russian border guards on Sep 19 in the Barents Sea, a day after several activists tried to board an oil platform operated by Russian state energy giant Gazprom, were ordered held in custody for 72 hours.

In the case of those eight activists, the court could not find interpreters for them or ascertain what role they had in the protest and therefore will hold a new hearing Sunday to determine whether to keep them in preventive detention.

"We have sufficient legal basis for appealing all the actions taken by the Russian authorities in this process," Greenpeace Russia's Anton Beneslavski told EFE Thursday.

"Violence was not employed during the protest. There was no assault nor illegal seizure of another's property and also no attempt to take control of the (platform)," Greenpeace Russia said.

Meanwhile, Russia is facing international calls to release the activists with the Netherlands, where the environmental watchdog is based, saying it was not ruling out resorting to other legal avenues if Moscow did not respond promptly to its request.

All 30 activists could face formal charges of piracy for their Sep 18 protest in the Pechora Sea, in the southeastern portion of the Barents Sea, although Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that the activists were not pirates.

Gazprom claims the Greenpeace action endangered the health and lives of workers on the Prirazlomnaya oil platform.

Greenpeace says Gazprom's plans to begin crude production with that platform in the first quarter of 2014 would increase the risk of an oil spill in an area that contains three natural reserves protected by Russian law.

IANS

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