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After 28 activists and two journalists were detained in Russia when Greenpeace tried to unfurl a banner from a petroleum vessel, the organisation has been accused of being ill-prepared.
However the governments from Britain and the Netherlands, and activists and supporters across the globe, have said the charges against the ‘Arctic 30’ were heavy-handed and over the top.
The activists were charged with piracy and then hooliganism, which could have resulted in at least 7 years in prison. Talking to the press upon his release, Video journalist Kieron Bryan said:
"No-one could believe what was happening. We discussed the legal implications of doing a protest in Russia and I remember distinctly piracy being mentioned and the laughter that followed.
"I can't express what a shock it was to everyone. We all thought that we would get a rap on the wrists and be sent away. So, to find ourselves facing 10 to 15 years was a very difficult time."
A Greenpeace director said the charges constituted the stiffest response agianst Greenpeace activists by a government since the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985.
29 of the 30 detained have been given bail by a court in St petersburg so far. On Friday the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, in Hamburg, ordered Russia to release all detainees upon a payment from Greenpeace.
In a press release, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:
"Today is a historic day - a day when the fundamental rights of the Arctic 30 have been upheld by an international court of law. These 30 men and women were detained only because they stood up and courageously took peaceful action against Arctic oil drilling and to halt the devastating impacts of climate change”.
Russia abides by international law; according to the Russian constitution the state is now obliged to release all Greenpeace prisoners.