Authorities in Russia are to bring more charges against many of the Greenpeace activists currently being detained in the country.
The 28 protesters and two journalists had initially been charged with piracy, before it was reported that the charges were to be downgraded to hooliganism instead – a charge that still carries a maximum sentence of seven years.
However, Greenpeace claims that the piracy charges have not been withdrawn, but “instead each of them was simply served with the additional charge of hooliganism”.
Vladimir Markin of the investigative team has now also announced that some of the detainees will face charges of resisting law officers, an offence which carries a maximum five-year term.
“A few boats approached the platform, and with the aid of special equipment, they tried to climb up the platform. They completely ignored the authorities’ orders. Furthermore, if you recall, they rammed the coastguard ship,” he said in an interview with gazeta.ru.
The so-called ‘Arctic 30’ have been detained in Murmansk since their arrest by Russian security forces over 50 days ago, during a protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, an offshore Arctic drilling platform operated by the Russian energy giant Gazprom.
Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia, commenting after the 30 were accused instead of hooliganism, said that the charity would continue to fight any accusations.
“We will contest the trumped up charge of hooliganism as strongly as we contested the piracy allegations”, he said.
“The Arctic 30 are no more hooligans than they were pirates. This is still a wildly disproportionate charge that carries up to seven years in jail. It represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest.”
Russia’s treatment of the detainees has drawn international criticism. A number of public figures, including 11 Nobel peace prize winners and German premier Angela Merkel, have added pressure on Putin to use his position to ensure the piracy charges are dropped and the activists and journalists are released.
On Thursday, David Cameron also urged Putin to help, saying the all the charges are excessive.
“They are not hooligans, they are protesters”, Cameron told BBC local radio.
Marking the 50th day since the activists were arrested, Greenpeace have released a collection of letters from the accused detailing their experiences in Murmansk. The Guardian published a narrated compilation video of some of the letters.
“We need you”, writes Alexandre Paul, a Canadian activist.
“We need people to write to their governments, to the Russian embassies. Tell them this imprisonment is unfair and illegal […] Ask your leaders to support Holland’s legal action on Russia, demanding the release of our ship and crew.
“Greenpeace is only but a word, the people behind it that is our strength.”