Nine passengers who were aboard Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise will be released on bail ahead of their trial for hooliganism. Activists from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, New Zealand, and Poland were granted release by Russian authorities on Tuesday, and more such requests are expected to be heard later this week. The releases come after the Russian government downgraded the charges against the 30 passengers of the ship from piracy to “hooliganism as part of an organized group,” which carries a shorter maximum sentence. (Greenpeace denies that the piracy charges have been formally dropped.)
Three Russian activists from aboard the ship were also released on bail on Monday. All 30 activists were moved to St. Petersburg from the Siberian city of Murmansk, where they were originally detained, earlier this month. Though the international activists do not have Russian visas, Greenpeace says it has booked them hotel rooms in St. Petersburg. Bail for the activists was set at 2 million rubles, or about $61,500.
The activists are believed to be flight risks by Russian courts, so it’s not clear whether they will be allowed to travel. (In the event that they are, though, we can’t imagine why they would ever return to face trial.) Still, relatives are cautiously celebrating the fact that, at the very least, some of the activists will not have to be imprisoned ahead of their trials.
At least one activist, Australian citizen Colin Russell, has been denied release on bail. His wife said he looked “haggard” at the hearing. “He doesn’t look like the Col I knew when he left home three or four months ago but good to be able to hear he still has his sense of humor,” Christine Russell said.
“The Arctic 30 will not be free until every last one of them is back home with their families,” Greenpeace International head Kumi Naidoo said. “What we do know for certain is that they are still charged and could spend years behind bars if they are convicted for a crime they did not commit. And we remain baffled and heartbroken that our colleague Colin was refused bail and sent back to prison for three months,” he said.
Of course, Greenpeace wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t be able to accomplish its goals without controversy. So, even though the activists are on trial, they held up handmade signs while awaiting the court’s rulings. You do your thing, guys, but if it was me, I’d fall on my knees and beg forgiveness rather than face seven years in a Russian prison.