Tasmanian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell, arrested by the Russian authorities along with 29 others from the Greenpeace vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, has been formally charged in Russia. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr Russell had been formally charged with hooliganism.
Greenpeace International activist Colin Russell of Australia
attends a bail hearing at a court in Murmansk, October 17, 2013. Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to drop piracy charges against 30 people detained over a Greenpeace protest last month at an Arctic oil rig. The piracy charges, punishable by up to 15 years' jail, appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic. (REUTERS/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters)
Terming the charge as a fantasy, Greenpeace said it bears no relation to reality. The group urged the Australian Government to again step in and put diplomatic pressure on Russia.
Australia, meanwhile has already registered its concerns about the case with the Russian government.
The 59-year-old Mr Russell has been in Russian custody since Sept 18, after two of the Greenpeace activists tried to climb on top of the Russian oil rig in the Arctic.
Russian authorities earlier said it would charge the arrested activist for piracy. It, however, later replaced piracy with charges of hooliganism, which carries a maximum jail-term of seven years.
Media reports say, Mr Russell's wife Chrissie spoke to him last week, for the first since his arrest. She said with the new hooliganism charges, it was more uncertain what the length of the detention would be.
Greenpeace, meanwhile, said there is still confusion about the charges against its activists.
"There's been no communication with the lawyers, or with Greenpeace, or as we understand with the detainees of the change with the charges," said Reece Turner, the organisation's spokesman.
"So it's all a bit of a haphazard process to be honest and we're learning things through the media which sometimes don't correlate with the actual judicial process," he said.
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