Amsterdam, 11th November 2013 – The transport away from Murmansk of thirty men and women detained by Russia following a peaceful protest at an Arctic oil platform started at around 5:00am Monday, local time. Greenpeace International understands the move is taking place by prisoner train. Lawyers for the thirty who tried to visit them in Murmansk this morning were told by officials at the detention centre that all thirty were already being transported.
Ben Ayliffe, Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner, commented: “We don’t yet know if the relocation of these wrongfully accused people will see an improvement in terms of their detention conditions and basic human rights. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the Arctic 30 are transported in a humane way.”
The most common method of transporting detainees in Russia is by a prison wagon, which can be attached to either a passenger train or cargo train. Detainees are placed in special carriages, containing cells. These cells have two wooden bunk beds on each side, so there is space for four people. It is not confirmed the thirty are travelling in such conditions. “From the information we have these cars are not heated,” said Ayliffe. “We have advised the thirty to dress in warm clothes and shoes. We have also organised prompt deliveries of additional supplies of warm outfits, in addition to the garments that we have been able to get to them in the last couple of weeks.”
Why the Arctic 30 are being moved – to St Petersburg, according to persistent rumours – is still unclear. It might take from 24 to 72 hours before it becomes clear which detention centre or centres the Greenpeace prisoners and freelance journalists have been moved to. There are many pre-trial detention centers in St Petersburg.
Ben Ayliffe added: “At the heart of the matter is the simple basic truth that their incarceration is unlawful. These people are neither pirates, nor hooligans, they are innocent. They should be released as soon as possible. Peacefully protesting for the protection of the pristine Arctic is not a crime, it is a great service to mankind. The detainees shouldn’t be in jail at all, they should be free to join their families and to restart their lives.”
St Petersburg has some daylight in the winter months, unlike Murmansk. And families and consular officials would find it easier to visit the thirty. But there is no guarantee that conditions inside any new detention centre will be any better than in Murmansk.
As of now the Arctic 30 are still charged with both piracy and hooliganism. No official confirmation has been given by the Russian authorities that the charge of piracy has been dropped, even though they clearly stated to the world’s media that this absurd charge would be withdrawn.The Arctic 30 now stand accused of both offences, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 and 7 years, respectively.