Global protests call for release of Arctic 30 as masked men break into grounds of Greenpeace office

Amsterdam, 18 October 2013 — As the Arctic 30 face their 30th day of imprisonment by Russian authorities, nearly 10,000 people are taking to the streets at more than 100 events in 36 countries to call for their immediate release.

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Meanwhile in Murmansk — where the 30 are being held — the grounds of the Greenpeace office were last night broken into. A mock cage, which was going to be used to highlight the injustice of the Arctic 30’s imprisonment during a solidarity protest in the city, was stolen. CCTV footage, released today by Greenpeace International, shows six men in balaclavas scaling a fence and entering the grounds — which belong to the building which houses the Greenpeace office — last night.

As the global activities kicked off, bail hearings began for four more activists: Faiza Oulahsen of the Netherlands, Anne Mie Roer Jensen of Denmark, Alexandre Paul of Canada and Alexandra Harris of the UK. Alexandre and Alexandra both had their bail requests denied; the other cases are ongoing.

Today Alexandra’s mother Linda Harris said: “Alex is a caring, sensitive person, who cares for the environmental future of the planet. She was on board the Arctic Sunrise as part of a peaceful protest, in international waters, in the radio room doing her job, and we hope and pray that the Russian authorities will let our daughter come home to us soon.”

In a letter to a journalist, published today in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, Faiza writes of being held “in a dirty cell, alone, isolated from the rest”, only able to “catch a glimpse of other Russian prisoners in the corridor”. She says: “Once in a while a rat crawls across the floor. I’ve lost weight and am not sleeping too well, but I am still holding my head high.” She complains of having been denied the right to call home and not receiving most of the books and letters people are sending her. She adds: “I crave letters from my family, friends, and colleagues.” She also says the highlight of her day is the exercise hour, when she “walks around in a dark concrete space of about 5×5 meters, where you’re lucky if you can see the sky through the cracks in the rotten and leaky roof.”

Protests worldwide today include:

•    A protest at the base of Mount Everest with activists from Greenpeace East Asia.
•    In Mexico City, protesters are visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s monument and will build a prison cell around it.
•    In the Netherlands, people erected a giant cage in the centre of Groningen, the hometown of one imprisoned activist and the sister city of Murmansk, Russia.
•    In Bangkok, people gathered in Wat Phra Kaeo, one of the most iconic temples of Thailand, where volunteers shaped the words Free the Arctic 30 using flower bouquets.
•    In Bangalore, people gathered in Freedom Park, where a prison once stood.
•    In Germany, a 30-hour vigil is taking place with more than 100 people, on top of the ongoing solidarity vigil in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin that started on September 19.
•    A 24-hour sit-in vigil is happening in the central square of Naples, Italy, the home city of one of the Arctic 30 detainees.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:

“It is now 30 days since our ship was seized and our 30 friends and colleagues were detained. They now face a charge of piracy — an absurd charge that carries a maximum 15 year jail sentence.

“The Arctic 30 were standing up for all of us, defending a fragile environment and a climate in crisis and now we must stand with them. Their detention is an attack against every single person who has ever been willing to raise their voice to demand a better future for themselves and their children. Now these 30 people are prisoners of conscience and we are all responsible for their fate.

“Greenpeace does not think it is above the law, but those 30 brave men and women are not pirates and this charge is a clear attempt to deter peaceful protest. We are here today to show our solidarity with the Arctic 30 and defend the right to peaceful protest. We call for their immediate release.”

Last month, 28 Greenpeace activists, and a freelance photographer and a videographer, were charged with piracy by the Russian authorities following a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling at a Gazprom oil platform in the Pechora Sea. If convicted, the offence carries a maximum 15 year jail term. The Murmansk Lenin District Court ordered that the Arctic 30 could be detained up until at least November 24 while allegations against them are investigated by the country’s authorities. Lawyers acting to defend the thirty have appealed against their detention.

This morning the non-executive Chairman of Shell told media in Finland that the Finnish activist imprisoned in Russia, Sini Saarela, should be released. This is significant because Shell has a close business relationship with Gazprom in the Russian Arctic. Greenpeace’s Jim Footner said: “This message should be coming from Shell’s CEO Peter Voser. He should break his company’s ties with Gazprom and do everything he can to ensure the Arctic 30 are freed.”