Russia has dropped piracy charges against 30 Greenpeace activists, including Kiwi and Australian citizens, and pushed penalty for hooliganism, according to reports.
The detainees charged with hooliganism will face a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment instead of 15 years in jail for piracy. With this, Greenpeace said the hooliganism charge was "wildly disproportionate."
The Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace ship, was in custody of the Russian authorities after the activists from different nations scaled the offshore oil platform. The 30 people on board were detained, including two freelance journalists. The detainees applied for bail but their appeal has been denied.
Russia's Investigative Committee Head Vladimir Markin told Russian media that the charges against the Greenpeace activists had been reclassified.
Despite dropping piracy charges, investigators did not ignore graver charges against them later on. One charge Russian authorities may be considering is violence against officials.
The detainees' refusal to provide evidence was also another point against them as the police are also contemplating to charge them with other offenses like espionage and terrorism.
Russian President Vladimir Putin received a letter from 11 Nobel Prize winners, asking him to drop piracy charges against the Greenpeace activists. Presidential Press Sec. Dmitry Peskov said Putin cannot do anything because he has no power to influence the courts to change their ruling.
The preseident said on September that the Kiwi, Australian and other Greenpeace activists were detained for violation of international laws. However, he added it was evident that they were "of course, not pirates." In a statement, the Arctic 30 were "no more hooligans than they were pirates."
Greenpeace Russia Programme Director Ivan Blokov said in a report that he was surprised the government did not attend the international court hearings in Germany over the Greenpeace activists' detention.
On Oct. 21, the Netherlands took the case to the UN tribunal in Hamburg for the recovery of the Dutch-flagged ship and its 30 crew.
According to the Russian foreign ministry, the country has declined to be included in the UN Law of the Sea dispute procedures in 1997.
The 30 Greenpeace activists are currently in pretrial detention at Murmansk until late November 2013. The detainees had reportedly complained of being held in "harsh conditions." They were detained by Russian authorities after protesting against deep-sea oil drilling in the Arctic. Greenpeace has denied allegations of violating laws and called for the release of the Arctic Sunrise Crew.
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